Tools of the trade

by | Dec 1, 2013

Nigel ViningA few months back i was asked to visit a client’s site to improve the performance of an application.
This usually wouldn’t be an issue, but ….. I was hesitant to say yes. why?
Because I knew getting the appropriate access and tools would take longer than the actual job. I get paid for time on site so if the client wants to slow me down, that’s their prerogative. What I do mind though, is wasting time – the clients, and my own.
This made me start thinking about the minimum ‘toolkit’ I need to do my job effectively – and I came up with the following list:

  1. Administrative access to a PC  – if I can’t install the software I need (listed below) i’m going to have to improvise and find workarounds which can take ALOT of time. I have worked on sites where every time I needed to execute a client application I would need to ring a support desk so they could remote login and use the administrative password to allow the software to run!
  2. A good text editor like NotePad++ which highlights syntax and provides a great place to view logfiles, sql, javascript and html. If you don’t believe me, try reading a log file in NotePad :0
  3. SQL Developer or Toad with enough permissions to be able to run explain plans. Tuning performance without appropriate access to the database and explain plans is a bit hit and miss!
  4. Firefox (with Firebug installed) – allows me to quickly and easily ‘see’ and ‘debug’ what the particular application is doing. It also goes without saying, internet access …. having to cover multiple platforms, technologies, and scripting languages (which is what I enjoy most about Business Intelligence!) would involve carrying around a HUGE stack of manuals. These days the internet provides us access to the current online versions, and the user communities that support them.
  5. An LDAP browser. It’s the easiest way to check users, groups, permissions, server configuration and organisational hierarchy information when setting up connections and security.

Thinking about my list – what would your ‘toolkikt’ have in it ? and what cant you do without …
Till next time… Nigel

  1. Mike O'Neil

    Just giving anyone admin rights (especially a contractor) might represent too much risk for the organisation concerned.
    You may think you need an FTP client so you can FTP stuff anywhere you think is OK. The organisation might not.
    You download a piece of software that changes configuration settings or versions of another software element, that impacts the operation of some other software. The legacy may cost more than the value you added.
    Perhaps you could just give the organisation the list of PC tools you think you need.
    Yes, I need to give the plumber access to the bathroom when I want a plumbing problem sorted, but no, I’m not giving him access to my wine cellar, and nor should he need to go into the master bedroom.
    The tool kit that you need to take on site depends on the site and the job to be done.
    It might be that the site has all the tools required. Your unfamiliarity with their preferred tool might be your issue not theirs.
    Perhaps the approach could be to have a list of the tools / access / permissions you would need to be able to perform the particular task asked of you. The engagement SOW could include those.

    • Nigel Vining

      Thanks Mike, appreciate the feedback
      Your advice regarding getting access and required tools agreed up front in the SOW is a great suggestion.

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