DBA Headcounts Level Off But for How Long?

August, 2018

Businesses are collecting more data than ever, and they must ensure that the data is secure and accessible. But despite these demands, companies have been restraining the growth of their in-house database administration staff in recent years. In 2018, the trend continues: Database administrators (DBAs) have leveled off to 2.9% of the total IT staff at the median, down from the recent high of 3.3% in 2014.

As shown in Figure 1 from the full report, Database Administration Staffing Ratios, database administrators as a percentage of the IT staff rose slightly to 2.9% at the median in 2018, as shown in Figure 1. The 2018 level is the same as 2015, and there has not been much movement since then. Only in 2014 was it higher at 3.3%.

DBAstaffing fig 1 - DBA Headcounts Level Off But for How Long?

Several factors are working to restrain the growth of the in-house DBA head count, including SaaS, outsourcing, job segmentation, and newer, easier-to-maintain databases. Nevertheless, the importance of database administration is not diminishing. Enterprises seeking to compete in the digital age must increasingly capture and analyze a torrent of data. But as enterprises use an increasing amount of data, databases themselves have gotten easier to manage allowing database administrators to be more productive and manage larger databases.

“The future of the DBA role lies mainly in this tug of war between the need for more data and more easily-managed databases,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research for Computer Economics, based in Irvine, Calif. “There are reasons to think that the data firehose will continue unabated from both structured and unstructured data. If new technologies such as self-healing databases fail to keep up, the need for database administrators could increase.”

The explosion in mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), both of which produce massive amounts of data, are some of the factors that will lead to greater need for data collection and analysis. And each of these sources of new data provides a different challenge. The sensors and smart devices that are part of IoT may produce structured data, but in massive quantities. Mobile devices produce both structured and unstructured data, such as geolocation data, that organizations may wish to capture.

Because of this uncertainty, IT executives have an ongoing need to evaluate the adequacy of their database administration staffing in the face of demands for more accessible, flexible, and secure data. The full report helps executives determine whether they are keeping pace with industry standards by providing four benchmarks: DBAs as a percentage of the IT staff, DBAs as a percentage of the Data Center Group, users per DBA, and business applications per DBA. We present benchmarks for small, midsize, and large organizations and examine the influence of sector on these benchmarks. We conclude with best practices for optimizing DBA staffing. The ratios in this report are based on our annual survey of more than 200 IT organizations.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Database Administration Staffing Ratios. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).

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