Craig S. Mullins

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April 2004





The DBA Corner
by Craig S. Mullins  


Make the Most of Your DBA Reporting Structure

Different companies take different approaches to the DBA reporting structure, but a few reporting hierarchies are quite common. There is no one correct answer, but some reporting structures work better than others. One of the best organizational structures is to create a Data Resource Management group that consists of all the data and information specialist of the organization - DA, DBA, data analysts, performance analysts, etc. This group usually reports directly to the CIO, but might report through a Systems Programming unit, the Data Center, or Technical Support. Figure 1 depicts a typical reporting structure.

Figure 1. Typical DBA Reporting Structure

When an organization staffs application DBAs they will be spread out in application groups, typically with direct reporting to the line of business programming managers. Each application development team has a dedicated application DBA resource as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Application DBA Reporting Structure

There are problems with both of these reporting structures, though. The first problem is that Data Resource Management (DRM) should be placed higher in the IT reporting hierarchy. It is a good idea to have the DRM group report directly to the CIO. When an organization understands the importance of data to the health of the organization, placing DRM at this level is encouraged.

Furthermore, when application DBAs exist, they should not report to the application programming manager only. A secondary line of reporting to the Data Resource Management group will ensure that DBA skills are shared and communicated throughout the organization. Figure 3 delineates the recommended reporting structure for the data resource management group.

Figure 3. Recommended DBA Reporting Structure

Of course, some organizations eschew "dotted line" reporting because when an employee has two bosses problems can ensue. But as long as the duties of the DBA and the roles of each manager are clearly delineated and agreed upon by all upfront, these types of problems can be minimized.

The yo-yo DBA phenomenon is another type of problem that can occur when application groups have embedded DBA resources. Political in-fighting can result in constant reorganization and reshuffling of employees where the DBA reports differently every year, or maybe even every quarter. This "reorg-itis" should be avoided at all costs. It can sap the productivity of even the best DBA if she is being moved around all the time.

With a little diligence and some organization discipline, adopting the reporting structure in Figure 3 can be both highly productive for your company, as well as challenging for your DBAs. And that is a powerful combination that we all should be striving to achieve.



From Database Trends and Applications, April 2004.

2004 Craig S. Mullins,  All rights reserved.