Under the Hood or Behind the Wheel: Making the Most of DBA Talent

Database administrators are increasingly being tapped for more strategic initiatives while still tied to the operational tasks that consume the bulk of their time: installing new DBMS versions and applying patches, setting and tuning system parameters, ensuring appropriate storage allocations, responding to monitored alerts, managing security and authorization, managing backups…you get the idea.

These mundane responsibilities have now become but one part of the DBA’s job – a part that is having less and less of an impact on the overall success of the business, but is paramount to operational stability. We know that DBAs can be far more valuable to organizations when they are freed up to assume development or architectural roles or to focus on business intelligence, yet somehow operational database administration has become a black hole that consumes more and more of the DBA’s time and energy. How did this happen?

In the past, most end-users had little reason to consider the databases at the back end of their companies’ applications. They were the data stores that sat behind the scenes, usually within their own silos. Today, however, data is king, driving practically every business decision and resulting in an increasing number of users from across the enterprise wanting to access that data for thorough and timely analysis. As the number of databases continues to grow, managing them all has become quite the challenge especially given the need for 24×7 availability.

How much time do DBAs spend in traditional database administration tasks? A study of almost 1,500 database administrators and professionals, conducted across five user groups, found that 38% spend a majority of their days engaged in “traditional” DBA tasks such as availability, space management, schema changes, network connectivity, performance management, and capacity planning. Moreover, more than a third – 34% – say this commitment to traditional database tasks has grown, while 48% say it has remained at the same level. Only 15% report that the amount of time they spend in traditional database administration has decreased.

While few CIOs and executives view database administration as a core competency, all require well-managed database environments and business intelligence to process transactions, track and service customers, and reach new markets. The role of DBAs and other data professionals continues to involve more strategic business priorities and critical thinking skills. Many organizations view operational DBA tasks as a critical commodity and must find ways for these required skills to be cost-effectively obtained from other sources. The challenge for IT decision-makers who face data-related hiring decisions is how should they invest their limited budgets in order to empower their existing DBA talent to drive the highest impact on the business.



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