Pre- Design Issues
May 10, 1999
The Dreaded Billing Database
Recently, I was asked to set up a database to keep track of the billing information
for the company that I work for. After I started to think about it for awhile, I
realized that I am not a bookkeeper nor an accountant. I know nothing about billing
systems, what they require, what information they need to provide, nor do I know the way
that the information needs to be formatted.
So, I sat down with the controller and asked her what information they need me to keep
track of. This is when I realized that she did not know a thing about databases. She knew
nothing about tables, indexes, or DRI and I knew nothing about aging reports or accounts
receivable. I was left with a big question. How was I going to provide what they needed
without knowing accounting.
Instead of becoming a bookkeeper or making my bookkeeper into a DBA, I tried to fill in
the gaps by asking questions, or going through an interview process. The first step that
I was going to have to take, was to meet with, or interview, the people that would be using
the system. This interview would include watching them work and getting an idea of how I
could make their life a little bit easier, by saving them time and money. In some cases I
would even want to do a little of their work for them. Maybe cut down a little on data
entry, maybe produce a few reports.
After I had done this I came to this conclusion. I needed to approach this as if I was a
journalist. I needed to know the answers of Who, Where, What, When, Why and How. This may
not work for all circumstances, but it works well in mine. It bridges the gap between two
different people. By figuring out the Who, Where, What, When, Why and hows I had a
better understanding of the reports that they needed. I also had a better understanding of
the accounting cycle and when they needed their info, things like when the invoices needed
to be sent so that they could make it on this months books. Knowing these small things
helped me create a more valuable database for them.