Own Your Data, Own Your Management

Posted by Alex Slotnick on Aug 17, 2015 11:04:00 AM


Why DBAs are Canaries in the Coal Mine

If yours is a data-driven organization, your DBAs probably face significant challenges to executing effectively.

These typically include the following:

  • The scale and growth of the data. You know that data is big and growing fast, but you might not realize that DBAs are often expected to handle it without an increase in resources. In other words, the data-to-human ratio is growing rapidly.

  • Emerging technologies, which often lack the mature tools DBAs rely on for productivity.

  • The diversity and complexity of databases and application architectures. Polyglot persistence means that DBAs can’t manage a single set of technologies with a single set of tools. And modern applications are almost always distributed with clustering and replication across large numbers of machines.

  • Distributed and outsourced team structures. The pressures of working with remote teams challenge a DBA’s schedule, add friction to interpersonal communications, and complicate office politics.

Because organizations usually view IT as a cost center, outsourcing and “taking away parts of the job” is seen as a smart decision, but can backfire. The truth is that as long as companies own their data, they need to own the management of it too, at least in large part. This is because the DBA role is a critical interface between vital IT teams, and seeking to minimize or eliminate this role can be counter-productive. I will explore this theme throughout the book. DBAs, in fact, can end up being the canaries in the coal mine for IT as a whole. But when the canary is dying, instead of recognizing that there’s an environmental problem, the instinctive response is sometimes “get the canary out of here!”

Here are some of the reasons that trouble with DBAs should be seen as a symptom, rather than a cause, of overall IT dysfunction:

  • Failure to recognize their strategic importance means they aren’t being hired, trained, and managed correctly.

  • They occupy multiple positions of handoff, interaction, and information sharing between different teams.

  • Their duties and knowledge are specialized, leading to a temptation to centralize the burden on them instead of sharing or offloading it.

Key takeaways from this section:

  • IT’s challenge with data management isn’t just a problem to be minimized. It’s an opportunity.

  • IT productivity is a gauge of how effectively you’re managing the interactions between roles in IT.

    To read more from The Strategic IT Manager’s Guide to Building a Scalable DBA Team * by Baron Schwartz, you can download a free copy here.*

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