DBA Staffing Ratios: Executive Summary

November, 2007

Organizations are placing ever-increasing demands on database administrators. Application integration, the Internet, the need for faster and better business intelligence, the regulatory environment, stepped-up custom development work, and even the emergence of database-driven mobile applications are all creating need for personnel skilled in developing, managing, testing, securing, and backing up databases. On the other side of the coin, outsourcing trends and automation tools are working to commoditize and restrain the growth of database administration headcount.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Database Administration Staffing Ratios (2007).

As our annual study, IT Spending, Staffing and Technology Trends, has shown over the years, database administrators (DBAs) and support staff comprise a relatively small but vital part of most IT organizations. The composite numbers, however, mask some of the underlying sea-changes occurring as a result of all the forces impacting this aspect of the IT workforce. Also, IT executives have an ongoing need to evaluate the adequacy of their database administration staffing in the face of demands for more accessible, more flexible, and more secure data.

Database Administration Responsibilities
In this study, we use a broad definition of database administration, keeping in mind that some organizations include other functions such as applications development, systems administration, and data analysis in the job descriptions of their database administration staff. Reporting structures also vary from organization to organization, making it sometimes difficult to identify who is included among database administration staff.

According to our definition, database administrators are responsible for designing, implementing, and managing corporate database systems. In carrying out these responsibilities, the database staff must perform tasks that typically comprise:

  • Development, including modeling and designing the system to implement an effective scheme that utilizes resources efficiently
  • Improvements, including installing new software, updating software, and configuring hardware and software for optimal performance
  • Security, including implementing technology and procedures for protecting sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure
  • Validation, including testing to ensure data is correct, current, and not open to change or access by unauthorized personnel
  • Back-up, providing an organization with the means to recover from erroneous data entries, software errors, hardware failures, or disasters, along with frequent testing of the data to be used for recovery

While these are the common functions performed by the database administration staff, DBAs in small organizations may be called upon to perform other duties, while larger organizations are likely to employ various specialists such as data warehouse administrators, application DBAs, and data analysts.

The full version of this report examines typical database administration staffing levels by organization size. We also consider the database administration staff as a percentage of the total IT staff. Finally, to assess the impact of the rising level of custom software development activity, we look at database administration staffing by the organization’s level of custom application development activity in proportion to its application development headcount. This analysis is based on the responses of more than 200 CIOs and senior IT managers who participated in the 2007/2008 IT Spending, Staffing and Technology Trends survey.  

Computer Economics Viewpoint
The role and importance of database administration is not diminishing–far from it. As enterprises collect more data and connect more applications, it becomes more important to ensure that data is secure, reliable, and accessible. In spite of these increased demands, most companies appear to be doing a good job of restraining the growth in their database administration staff.

There seem to be three primary reasons for this. First, database software vendors have been improving the capabilities of their systems to support database administration. Second, some IT organizations have been focused on consolidation: reducing the number of database instances and the different versions of database software installed. Simplification and consolidation are always safe routes to improving productivity of support personnel. Finally, some organizations are selectively outsourcing the database administration function. This strategy is especially effective in small organizations, where, as we have seen, there are no economies of scale to warrant full-time staffing for database support.

Custom applications development also does not appear to be impacting database administration staffing levels. Organizations, however, need to be mindful of the pitfalls of undervaluing the database administration staff’s changing role within the enterprise. Inadequate staffing can result in unforeseen risks and consequences should the quality, integrity, or security of data be undermined.

This Research Byte is a brief extract from our full 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 at https://avasant.com/report/database-administration-staffing-ratios-2007/ (click for pricing).

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