Over the last few months, I've spent a lot of time talking to different people about the importance of the "B" in BI--as in "Business Intelligence" (stay with me, DBAs, I'll get you roped in here soon enough). I joke that that "B" is there for a reason and it's no accident that it's the first letter in the acronym. The point I make is that the hard part of BI projects isn't deciding what technology to use or working through hurdles that come from questionable data, but instead, understanding the Business needs that got the project started in the first place.
Or, put another way, making sure that the "Why?" questions are asked first and foremost, and that the answers to those questions are used to ask better "What?" questions on down the line while the solution is designed, developed, and implemented.
This works well when the word "Business" is directly included in the type of data work I do, but this applies just as readily to plain ol' DBA work, as well. Everything from data modeling considerations to planning big database consolidation projects need to start out by asking and understanding the "Why"s coming from our business leaders and our userbase. Sometimes these questions are easy--"Why do you want to be able to restore yesterday's database backup?" Other times they might be hard to get answers to--"Why is this KPI calculated three different ways in this one report?" (true story!). Chances are, asking these questions will have some kind of monetary impact. For a BI project, it may cause the project to complete quicker with less re-work late in the game, while the need to upgrade some old, unreliable hardware may lead to a server virtualization project for a DBA team.
I've seen both BI and DBA projects go sideways because the right questions weren't asked early enough in the project lifecycle; conversely, I've worked with some great BAs who are fantastic at understanding the business rationale and ensuring we, the technology team, all did, too.
What kind of save-the-day stories do you have that started out by asking "Why?"