Thursday, January 02, 2014

DBA Rules of Thumb - Part 8 (Being Business Savvy)

Understand the Business, Not Just the Technology

Remember that being technologically adept is just a part of being a good DBA. Although technology is important, understanding your business needs is more important. If you do not understand the impact on the business of the databases you manage, you will simply be throwing technology around with no clear purpose.

Business needs must dictate what technology is applied to what database—and to which applications. Using the latest and greatest (and most expensive) technology and software might be fun and technologically challenging, but it most likely will not be required for every database you implement. The DBA’s tools and utilities need to be tied to business strategies and initiatives. In this way, the DBA’s work becomes integrated with the goals and operations of the organization.
The first step in achieving this needed synergy is the integration of DBA services with the other core components of the IT infrastructure. Of course, DBAs should be able to monitor and control the databases under their purview, but they should also be able to monitor them within the context of the broader spectrum of the IT infrastructure—including systems, applications, storage, and networks. Only then can companies begin to tie service-level agreements to business needs, rather than technology metrics.

DBAs should be able to gain insight into the natural cycles of the business just by performing their job. Developers and administrators of other parts of the IT infrastructure will not have the vision into the busiest times of the day, week, quarter, or year because they are not privy to the actual flow of data from corporate business functions. But the DBA has access to that information as a component of performing the job. It is empowering to be able to understand business cycle information and apply it on the job.

DBAs need to expand further to take advantage of their special position in the infrastructure. Talk to the end users — not just the application developers. Get a sound understanding of how the databases will be used before implementing any database design. Gain an understanding of the database’s impact on the company’s bottom line, so that when the inevitable problems occur in production you will remember the actual business impact of not having that data available. This also allows you to create procedures that minimize the potential for such problems.

To fulfill the promise of business/IT integration, it will be necessary to link business services to the underlying technology. For example, a technician should be able to immediately comprehend that a service outage to transaction X7R2 in the PRD2 environment means that regional demand deposit customers cannot access their accounts. See the difference?

Focusing on transactions, TP monitors, and databases is the core of the DBA’s job. But servicing customers is the reason the DBA builds those databases and manages those transactions. Technicians with an understanding of the business impact of technology decisions will do a better job of servicing the business strategy. This is doubly true for the DBA’s manager. Technology managers who speak in business terms are more valuable to their company.

Of course, the devil is in the details. A key component of realizing effective business/IT integration for DBAs is the ability to link specific pieces of technology to specific business services. This requires a service impact management capability—that is, analyzing the technology required to power each critical business service and documenting the link. Technologies exist to automate some of this through event automation and service modeling. Such capabilities help to transform availability and performance data into detailed knowledge about the status of business services and service-level agreements.

Today’s modern corporations need technicians who are cognizant of the business impact of their management decisions. As such, DBAs need to get busy transforming themselves to become more business savvy — that is, to keep an eye on the business impact of the technology under their span of control. 

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