"This is taking too long," she told me.
"Are you sure you are using the new file?" I asked.
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She said she was. To help speed up the process, I gave her the "supersecret" password for deleting all the test data at once. I would've liked to have done this myself, using GoToMyPC or a similar remote access tool, but her company's IT policies prohibited it. After she "nuked" the data, I told her she was ready to set up the new business data in the new file. She thanked me and hung up.
Shortly after, I got a call from a more senior user who told me "all their patients and equipment were gone" from the production database. The newbie had "nuked" the wrong file. And there was no backup.
It took them months to rekey some of the treatment and billing data from paper reports; some of the information was lost forever.
The most important thing I learned is that when users are nervous and know that the consequences of an error can be disastrous, they do not always become more careful. They will sometimes lie just to get the unpleasant experience to end sooner. To make sure as best as I could that a user was doing the steps correctly, I would ask even more questions in different ways to check the progress. I also found it useful for sensitive tasks to require another employee to check the work, especially if the company itself didn't take any precautionary steps, such as assigning such tasks to a more experienced user or doing adequate backups.
This story, "Danger, danger! Newbies at work!," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.