COVID-19 Accelerates Change for DBA Roles

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In addition to the use of collaboration/notification platforms, Pocknell said, DBA teams are also starting to meet up online just as they do in the office. This provides the opportunity to review the handling of situations and potential issues that may arise, and also ties into the need for DBAs to be more proactive.

DBAs Need Time for Planning Not Firefighting

With the increase in remote work and the possibility of a future wave of stay at home orders looming in the future if the novel coronavirus resurges, DBAs need to have processes in place to be in control and have oversight of everything they are managing so they can plan, said Pocknell.

"The worst case scenario when DBAs are managing all these different environments is to fall back to a reactive mode—what we call firefighting—with the phone ringing every 5 minutes with someone complaining about  performance issues or other problems, and the DBAs spending their time functioning as a support desk."

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, said Pocknell, DBAs had very little time to plan for processes such as upgrades. "It is probably about an 80/20 split. They spend about 80% of their time in reactive mode and 15% to 20% planning processes for upgrades, migrations, or bigger projects. Because they are spending so much time firefighting, it is difficult to find time to plan."

The Future is Here: Time to Pivot

In addition, there are many other changes happening from a technology standpoint because of the move to cloud, the increasing use of newer NoSQL databases, and other trends. Some of the modern databases are also becoming more autonomous and utilize AI and machine learning, thereby taking away routine tasks that DBAs have traditionally done and leaving some to wonder if they will have a job in 5 years' time, noted Pocknell.

With this transformation already taking place, the COVID-19 crisis has added to the pressure for DBAs to find new ways to elevate their relationships with the business, said Pocknell. "I think, for DBAs that really want to stick with this kind of job, they really need to pivot and embrace these changes and start doing some things that they weren't doing before."

DBAs still have a critical role in any company because they manage the data, he emphasized. "They understand the data, all the new types of data, all the new technologies, and the ramifications of working in hybrid environments. They are very technically astute, they keep up with technology, and they really should be the trusted advisers to the business as to how to leverage the data for the benefit of the business. The data is king and the ability of the business to get value from that data is often tricky to nut to crack."

This points to an opportunity for DBAs that started before the pandemic but is increasing now, said Pocknell. The key issue for DBAs today is they have to become more business-savvy and start engaging with the leadership team, he noted. "They need to get involved with projects much earlier on—really at the concept phase—rather than being the go-to people at the end of the project. They also need to be involved in a wider range of areas such as data modeling, business analytics, and data preparation. And, in addition to all of their other data knowledge, they need to expand what they know about data to help the business and add value to it," said Pocknell.

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