When Robert posted the invite for this month’s T-SQL Tuesday, I’ll admit that I really didn’t have any idea on what I would write about. I couldn’t come up with anything that I thought had bearing to the topic of “data presentation”
That is, until this morning.
I’m going to go a different direction and probably not show anything technical. You see, I think that data presentation is really about communication. Yup, you heard me. Communication. I want you to talk to your end user. Engage them to find out how they want the data presented. After all, it’s probably their data. We just store it for them and now they need our help to get the data into a meaningful format.
The end user probably doesn’t care if you use a Common Table Expression (which are really cool!), a cursor (not so cool!) or some fancy SSIS package to do the dirty work. All they really care about is that the data is in a format that is readable, meaningful and makes sense to them.
I’ve been in those conversations before and I would bet you have too. Everybody is sitting around the room and you start in with how you’ll pull the data and twist it this way and that way. When you look at your end user, you see their eyes are glazed over like a fresh doughnut. They probably don’t even know what a CTE is nor do they really care, and I don’t think that they should. I think that it’s great that we are passionate about doing it right in terms of extracting the data, but usually the end user isn’t technical. If they were, they probably wouldn’t be coming to you.
So how do you start that conversation? Easy. Start asking questions.
- Is there any particular format you want the data in?
- What are the requirements for the data? In other words, what is going to be in the WHERE clause.
- Is there going to be any type of grouping?
- Does the data need to be ordered in any fashion?
- Do you want pretty graphs?
And the list could go on and on.
In a nut shell, it’s really about talking with your end users and find out what they want and/or need. So start asking questions and it will shake out in the end. By all means, data presentation is one of the most important aspects of what we do. It is definitely something that all DBA’s should keep in mind as they write their awesome CTE’s or SSIS packages.
After all, data presentation is just a way for the data to communicate something meaningful to the reader.