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I'm a data analyst in a medium-sized organization, working with SQL outside the IT division. Part of my job duties (both my job and these duties are relatively new) are working with management on BI-related tasks.

I noticed that one of the "canned" report (built by IT staff) had a bug in it, that I can confirm by manually adding counts and cross-checking with other reliable reports.

It's not in my job duties to troubleshoot these reports, but that's also part of how I learn to work with the data, as I regularly compare my own reports and validate using the front-end application until I'm confident that results are accurate. So I now know how to fix that query.

Questions

  1. Should I report the issue through the help desk ticketing system (the official channel) or directly to the systems team? Would submitting to help desk risk making them look bad? I spoke with the IT staff only a few times so far so I don't know them and their dynamics all that well.

  2. On the spectrum of increasing "civic duty" but also "possibly stepping on someone's toes" below, should I:

    a) simply report the error
    b) describe the probable cause as per my analysis
    c) outline the SQL lines where I'm noticing the error
    d) provide the actual fixed query for their review

  3. Should I do instead first establish dialog by asking how they'd like me to proceed if I find errors, including when I confirmed the cause during my analysis.

I think that third option is probably ideal, but I'd love to hear comments, suggestions and possibly warnings from people who have more experience.

  • Are you able to email IT staff directly? Do you happen to know the particular person who built this report? – user45019 Jan 4 '17 at 23:50
  • @topomorto Yes I have the e-mail of the team in charge of development, but I was told early on to always e-mail helpdesk instead of contacting them directly (in general). I can always ask them directly, or to their manager, to confirm how I should proceed for bug reports. – mtone Jan 4 '17 at 23:53
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    I would email them,make it clear that you have an idea what the problem may be, but ask if it would be best just to open a helpdesk ticket, That way if they're going to see it as toe-treading, they can tactfully usher you out of their personal space - but if they would be happy to save some time by accepting your help, you've given them that opportunity. – user45019 Jan 4 '17 at 23:57
  • Be sure to clearly state how to reproduce the bug step by step – Mister Positive Jan 5 '17 at 3:01
  • Write it up as an email to the help desk, but include your "fixed" query as a reference point. I.E. "This query produces the expected results. (Include SQL)." Don't tell them they have to use it. Just give it to them for reference. As a developer, myself, I'd thank you for that. – Wesley Long Jan 5 '17 at 19:08
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No need to establish a dialog, unless you don't know how internally-found bugs are normally reported in your company. Usually, there is a well-established process.

You should report the bug using whatever is the formal bug-reporting system in your company. If that means going through the help desk, then do that.

Provide factual details about what you are seeing. And propose what you think might be the correct query.

Don't name names, or otherwise denigrate whoever coded the buggy query. You might have diagnosed the problem incorrectly. And you don't know who is responsible for the bug. None of that matters - report just the facts, without opinion.

A good bug report has basically

  • A one-line summary of the problem (not just "this isn't right")
  • A few sentences of description
  • What actions you took
  • What happened
  • What you expected to happen

Your bug-tracking system may require more (Operating System, version, severity, etc)

Then just sit back and hope that someone gets around to fixing it. Remember, that your bug may not be that important in the scheme of things, or that there might be far more important issues to be fixed before they can get to yours.

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    Good point regarding priority. They might already be aware of the problem and its cause, so I'll consider that too. – mtone Jan 5 '17 at 0:32
  • +1, and the rationale behind all that is that direct communication quickly gets unmanageable. The very reason why most companies do set up a bug tracking system is to avoid direct communication, and to keep every bug report visible and manageable. – gazzz0x2z Jan 5 '17 at 10:30
  • As a QA guy, you know bugs! – WorkerDrone Jan 9 '17 at 17:03
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Your third option is probably ideal at this stage before you know the company dynamic around bugs.

Some (badly run) IT departments can be quite dysfunctional and a helpdesk ticket is a permanent record of "incompetence" that can be brought up during salary reviews.

So, wander over, introduce yourself and have a quiet chat, giving them the option on how to proceed. You don't want to start your relationship with a key stakeholder group as "the guy who cost Joe his bonus"

  • I concur with this. Once you have built up relations with people in that department, then sending queries etc would be received much more freely without the "stepping on toes". Always do a) and b) though (from point 2), as providing the issue and how you found it gives them plenty of references to investigate themselves. – Andrew Berry Jan 5 '17 at 8:34
  • I don't mind getting downvotes but I'd like the justification as a comment so I can try to address them. – mcottle Jan 6 '17 at 15:52

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