Database administrators (DBA) are the forgotten men (and women) of the modern IT landscape. 

We talk all the time about C-level executives and the importance of having their buy-in and aligning with their objectives. We talk about making sure we’re meeting the needs of each specific line of business. We talk about big picture trends like big data, IoT, mobility and cloud. 

And we discuss all of these things for good reason: We need alignment with our C-level leaders. We need to collaborate with our lines of business. And we certainly need to get in front of the big trends reshaping the IT landscape. 

But we never get around to talking about the DBA. And that’s a problem, because none of those other good things will happen until we truly empower our DBAs.

Among the many reasons why companies struggle to manage data complexity and lack true data insight, failure to empower DBAs is top of list, but not top of mind. And it’s that dichotomy that’s left so many companies stuck when it comes to their ability to modernize and thrive in the data economy. 

So many of the struggles we face as IT departments and as organizations tie directly to the struggles our DBAs face on a daily basis. Yet so rarely are those struggles acknowledged and addressed. 

If we want to address our data management challenges head on, start by having an honest conversation with our DBAs about the struggles they face and what we as companies and IT leaders can do to position them for success.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common issues, and then outline some of the steps we can take to remedy those missteps. 

Too Much Credit

Perhaps the biggest way we fail our DBAs is by giving them too much credit. I can’t tell you how often I hear everyone from CIOs and CTOs to marketing and line of business executives say, “Don’t worry, the DBAs will figure that out.” And they mean it as a sign of respect. 

We have so much respect for the creativity and ingenuity of our DBAs that we wind up overlooking their actual needs. We assume that our DBAs are so smart that they’ll figure it out. No matter what we task them with, they’ll figure it out. 

And for many years, that was actually the case. DBAs managed to figure out whatever challenge leadership threw at them — even without access to the tools or resources they needed. But the data landscape has grown so complex and is changing so rapidly that even our best and brightest have reached their saturation point.

We can’t just toss challenges over the wall and expect DBAs to figure them out anymore. Provide them with the tools and training they need.

Too Little Investment

When was the last time your company made a significant investment in its DBAs — be it with productivity tools to make their jobs easier or specialized training to ensure they have the skills needed to manage the flood of new data types and data platforms? 

Learning Opportunities

If you can’t recall when that was, you’re probably not alone. In the hundreds of surveys released every year outlining the top IT spending priorities, how often do you see “investment in tools and training for my DBAs” on a list?  Not often, and maybe not ever. 

We can’t invest in new database technologies without also investing in the tools and training DBAs need to manage those technologies. 

The data landscape has changed so much that our technical needs no longer always directly map to the skills of our DBAs. This is not the fault of the DBAs, nor should it be their personal responsibility to refresh their training at their own expense. If we want to achieve our data objectives, we have to invest in the training our DBAs need in order to help us get there.  

Too Little Time 

The idea of doing more with less has become so cliché that we often dismiss the notion that someone just doesn’t have enough time. But DBAs really are out of time. Not figuratively, but literally out of time. 

DBAs have to keep the lights on and keep the business running. They have to manage multiple databases requiring them to speak multiple languages. They have to field multiple and often divergent requests from multiple lines of business on a daily basis. And now they’re expected to innovate and drive the company into modern big data initiatives. There’s just not enough time. 

Not without help, anyway. The marketplace is full of tools aimed at helping automate and simplify common tasks so that DBAs can be more productive. It’s simple: If you want your DBAs to do more, help them find the time to do so. If you want them to spend more time innovating and more time making those big data dreams a reality, then help them spend less time troubleshooting and less time on the commonplace. 

Invest in the right productivity tools, and your DBAs will pay you back many times over with the innovation they drive in their newfound free time.

A Little Can Go a Long Way

When we think of making an investment, we tend to think in terms of the monumental. But that doesn’t have to be the case with DBAs. 

Remember, your DBAs are already your smartest, most eager and most creative resources — so it won’t take much. Incremental investments in the right training and the right technology can help empower your DBAs, in the process driving their productivity to new heights and freeing time for them to truly innovate. If you do your part and fill your company with happy, productive and innovative DBAs, your data management challenges will fall like dominoes.

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