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Building a SQL Server DBA Department


By:   |   Last Updated: 2011-05-27   |   Comments   |   Related Tips: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | More > Professional Development Management

Problem

In a recent tip, a DBA explained that he has SQL Server Agent Jobs created without his knowledge on a regular basis.  He indicated that setting up proper security and a change management process would be the solution to this issue.  Is that really all it takes to "tame" a SQL Server environment?  Check out this tip for some recommendations on turning a SQL Server environment considered the "wild west" into an orderly and efficient department.

Solution
As the DBA mentioned in the last tip, imposing some security and a change management process could prevent SQL Server Agent Jobs from being deployed.  But if SQL Server Agent Jobs are getting deployed "willy-nilly", there is probably a lot more going on.  Assuming the "wild west" is still a reality at a number of SQL Server shops, let's take a look at the following topics to see if we can help tame the SQL Server "wild west" by building a DBA department. 

Build a plan

The first item that I think needs to be worked on is a plan to try to tame your SQL Server environment.  I would consider the following items for your plan:

  • Recent SQL Server issues that impacted the business
    • Determine the associated impact to the business in real dollars and intangible costs
  • Benefits to the business by building a DBA department as well as formalizing the change management, security, etc. processes
  • DBA Department team members and their associated roles
    • If the team members are not in house, consider the team members you will need to properly support the environment
  • General division of labor between the departments (DBA, Development, Storage, Networking, Business Analysts, etc.)
  • Overall time frame for implementing the project i.e. DBA Department

Managerial support

In many respects, approaching management about building a DBA department and stabilizing the SQL Server environment can be a daunting task and perhaps even considered a "career killer" at some organizations.  If that is the case for you, then think carefully before proceeding.

If you think that particular members of your management team are open-minded and recognize a need for SQL Server improvement, I would consider approaching them first. Try to understand if they think establishing a SQL Server group would make sense and how they would recommend approaching the final decision maker.  Based on the conversations and recommendations, it might make sense to adjust your original plan.

Once this conversation is under your belt, your next step would be to setup a discussion with the management making the final decision.  This could be with some of the management you already spoke to or a conversation with the final decision maker directly.  This could be a touchy situation, so be sure to properly prepare for this meeting.  One suggestion could be to try to have an informal conversation before trying to setup a formal meeting.  You know the situation the best, so follow your instincts.

Keep in mind establishing a DBA department could be a process that takes a few months or more depending on the organization.  Although, I am thinking positively that you will be able to setup the needed conversations and get the necessary managerial support.  However, some things just do not change.  Sometimes it takes a major event for a change to occur.  So some patience and timing could be needed in order to actually move forward with building a DBA department.  In other circumstances, things sometimes never change even after a crisis, so you need to determine if you are comfortable with the reality or determine if you have other career opportunities.


Build the DBA department

The real work starts once you have obtained managerial support for establishing a DBA department.  First, work with the management team to appoint the DBA leadership.  This could be a technical manager within the organization, a DBA transitioning to management or a new manager to the company.  This process could take months.  But once the correct person is in place, this leader needs to work on a number of items including:

  • Creating the goals and vision for the department
  • Setting expectations for all team members such as prompt service, follow-up on issues, communication expectations, documentation standards, etc.
  • Communicating the plan, goals and vision for the DBA department to the remainder of the IT organization and business units, if necessary
  • Identifying the roles and responsibilities of each team member
  • Establishing a clear division of labor between the existing departments, which may take time to transition all of the DBA tasks to the new department
  • Outlining and developing short, mid and long term goals for the department to add value to the organization

Manage and grow the department

Building the department is one mountain to climb, but managing and growing the department is a long term commitment that will have peaks, valleys and everything in between.  The reality is it takes time to grow and manage a department.  There will be pressures from a number of directions.  As you grow the department consider the following:

  • Team members
    • Develop skills for your team members
    • Keep raising the bar
    • Reward team members for a job well done
  • Department
    • Build a knowledge base
    • Communicate regularly
    • Refine expectations
    • Be prepared for the worst and enjoy it when things are going well
    • Embrace new technologies
  • Organization
    • Do not forget you are their to support the organization and make it prosper
    • Find out how the department can save time and money to benefit the organizations
Next Steps


Last Updated: 2011-05-27


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About the author
MSSQLTips author Jeremy Kadlec Since 2002, Jeremy Kadlec has delivered value to the global SQL Server community as an MSSQLTips.com co-founder and Edgewood Solutions SQL Server Consultant.

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