SQL Server State of the Union

Posted: August 27, 2009 in Uncategorized


A few days ago Tom Roush sent this message into the SSWUG List server. I loved the idea so I thought I would post about it. What would I have answered…


Awhile back Chris Shaw made an interesting comment during a presentation about wanting anonymity in the company – with the idea that if people know who you are, it means they know because there are problems.   I understand that – and ideally, you’re just part of the woodwork, keeping problems from happening before they happen.  Which brings me to the question: How do you promote yourselves within the company?  The cuts companies are making these days are often – well, some can be said to be ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ – so what are you out there doing to make sure the folks above you who control the purse strings know what you’re doing? I’m sure we’ve all got ways that work in different environments.  Last year I did a “SQL State of the Union” presentation to the executive staff – which was high enough level to not glaze their eyes over, yet detailed enough (performance improvements and the like) to let them know they’d done a good thing when they hired me.

I think many DBA’s may already have to do a “State of the Union”, if not I think it is a great idea. What an opportunity to make your voice heard in an environment where many times if things are not broke you are not going to get any money to fix it. I work for years at a company that was more than happy to let you budget like you would get the resources that you needed. We would spend a month planning and researching what equipment that we would upgrade or replace. Sit around and look form training classes so that we could keep everyone’s skill set up to par. Work that was all done in vain, eventually every year they would come back and let us know that we needed to be at a certain amount. I can understand that we cannot run around hog wild and just purchase whatever we want however many of the times we would get budgets that would barely allow of payroll. In some years it would not.

So a “State of the Union” on your databases and database systems would give you a great opportunity to be upfront with all the risks that may be lurking. In my “State of the Union” I would address the following items:

  • Disaster Recovery – What plans are in place to recover the servers if something were to go wrong? How long would it take to bring a server back up to replace the existing? What challenges are between a disaster and a quick recovery? What is the impact if these systems got down and you cannot bring them back up for an extended period of time?
  • Security – Are you being asked to place the databases or the data at risk by allowing excessive permissions? Is there a chance that your company could be at risk for losing someone’s personal data? Is there the opportunity for improvement?
  • Morale of the team – I think this is a point that gets looked over often many companies start to cut any sort of morale boosters when the economy gets tight. When you have a staff that is working on keeping the company’s data online many times working around the clock is it a good idea to have them with a poor morale?
  • Goals Reached – Many times the DBA team is overlooked if you are doing your job right. I don’t think that is a bad thing, but you do need to make sure that the executive staff knows there is work being done. Let them know where and how you saved them money and or downtime. What has been done in the last year to increase the stability and performance of the systems?

What would you put in your “State of the Union”?

  1. […] SQL Server State of the Union – Before your annual review, you need to start thinking about how you can justify your cost and your job. Chris’s list of high-level environment status checks is a good place to start. […]

  2. Chris –

    I think this would be a great tool for having far better communications within a company.

    Morale of the team is a tough one to talk about – only because it’s difficult to monitor and measure. You can say “things seem good’ but you’re seeing what people want to show you in terms of attitude. BUT, I do think you can talk about this indirectly, specifically with successes using information by over-delivering on reports, or even by showing that end-users are putting information to use on their own more quickly. Within the team, you might be able to measure by showing overtime, and by showing the successes of pre-emptive work you’re doing.

    All of this to say that, like your talks about having written and pre-determined escalation plans, it helps to keep people in the loop and aware of what you’re doing, what successes and challenges you have, etc.

    Personally, I’d add a couple of items so people know you’re thinking ahead – horizon-type things:

    – trends in how information is used
    – security landscape (evolving threats expected, etc.)
    – ongoing compliance work if applicable, best practices being managed if not

    Just basically show you’re not in reaction mode.

    By the way, doesn’t have to be a huge book of status updates. It can be quick bullets, presented quickly once/quarter or whatever and opened to Q&A.

    I think that the side-effect of all of this is that people will be surprised and (gasp!) impressed with what the DBA or DBA team is working with on the systems.

    Silence from the DBA team isolates their work and effectiveness. You have to be actively working to prevent it IMHO.


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