The Evolving Role of Database Administrators

November 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Robert Half discusses huge changes the past two decades have brought to database administrators and the IT industry. 


Database Administrator Jobs

To make the best decisions, organizations big and small depend on the data their systems collect on customers and internal operations. And they need someone to keep them in touch with all that information. Enter the database administrator. But today’s database admin is not the admin of the 1990s. The last two decades have brought huge changes to the IT industry. Let’s take a look at how these changes have evolved the database administrator role.

Before the data-driven Web

In the early days of computing, data and the systems it was stored and processed on were synonymous. There were no “database administrators” because the database was the system and applications themselves. The specialized role of database admin developed as operating systems became more generic and database technology grew into a separate application running on top of an operating system. Organizations needed someone to manage increasing amounts of data stored in mainframes and client/server applications. The database admin role developed into a gatekeeper and caretaker, ensuring that the data was properly maintained and helping programmers to work with it.

The Web fuels big demand

Databases did not play much of a role in the early days of the Web. However, once web development technologies improved enough to easily connect web sites to databases, the need for more database administrators became obvious. Web projects took weeks or months to build in stark contrast to the years it would take for a mainframe or client/server application to be built. With such rapid development, database administrators often found themselves trying to corral dozens of developers and applications to comply with data integrity and security standards. Since many of these web developers got their start inweb design or as “web masters,” lacking substantial experience or knowledge in database design or security principles, database administrators had to work even harder to keep things running smoothly.

Over time, the programming languages, frameworks and techniques used for web development became much more supportive of sound database design. Object/relational mapping (ORM) systems such asHibernate and Entity Framework automatically enforced best practices and greatly reduced the need for programmers to directly write database queries. The reduced exposure to direct database access made it easier for database administrators to see what code was accessing the database and to ensure that it met organizational needs and standards.

NoSQL databases, big data and the cloud

In the last few years, NoSQL databases, the big data movement and the cloud have all morphed the database admin’s role. NoSQL databases relieve many of the traditional issues of the database administrator by focusing less on structure and data relations, and shifting significant amounts of control over data into the hands of application developers.

Big data technologies have moved into the space traditionally occupied by data warehouses and made analysis faster and more capable. Like NoSQL databases, big data technologies have empowered technology professionals to perform significant amounts of work themselves and allow database administrators to focus on improving performance and finding better solutions.

Cloud applications have changed the database administrator’s job as well. As organizations put more data in applications outside the firewall, database admins have had to find ways to enable integrations to work with these applications and still maintain security and data integrity. Use of cloud applications has decentralized some data and pushed it into specialized silos outside the database administrator’s reach, making it more difficult to see what data is stored where. At the same time, organizations often still have their most critical data stored in traditional relational databases. The database administrator of today is adaptive and knowledgeable about multiple types of data storage and maintenance.

According to our Salary Guidethe average starting salary for database administrators is projected to increase 5.6% in 2016 to a range of $95,750 – $142,750 in the United States. Data experts will be in demand, along specialists in mobile and security, in the coming year. The major qualifications to become a database administrator are:

  • A strong technical foundation in database structure, configuration, installation and practice
  • Knowledge and experience in major relational database languages and applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and IBM DB2
  • At least two years of postsecondary education is typically required
  • Professional certifications from Microsoft, Oracle and others
  • Attention to detail, a strong customer service orientation and the ability to work as part of a team

Data storage has dramatically changed over time from mainframes to databases to the cloud. But as long as there’s data, that data will need to be managed. The database administrator role is not going to lose steam any time soon.

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This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research and Communications introduces the first in her 8 part series of principles for responsible data stewardship to help guide behavioral change that will preserve customer good will and trust.


Following up to the introduction of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, here’s the first principle.

I know right off the bat that espousing customer control of coveted data collected at great effort and expense is marketing heresy. But it’s what they want. Sensed loss of control (psychological or otherwise) was the predominant finding in Dialog’s recent research.

Control extends to multiple domains. Perhaps most contentious is who ‘owns’ someone’s data. People believe they own their own data; the businesses who collect it feel they do, and in reality, they do legally own what’s collected in the course of transacting business. Customer data is a critical asset. But what happens with that data beyond the original intent (a la “I know I bought a thing from you but not them”) is unclear and uncomfortable. Some respondents want access to their data to see what’s been collected. Some feel that they should be paid for the use of it. Most want the option to decide whether or not their data gets shared, with whom, for what purpose and in what circumstance. This is far from today’s practices.

The letter of the law may permit sharing or selling of data to 3rd parties. Long, complex privacy policies in 3 point font may direct customers to some limited opt-out actions. Those policies are seldom read and even less seldom understood. But perception is what really matters. When customers feel loss of control over how their data is used and abused, offending brands will pay the price. One respondent told me she could tell exactly which nonprofit entity had been repeatedly selling her data by the volumes of spam received; she stopped supporting that nonprofit all together.

Control over the digital experience is another concern. If the internet is about freedom, then people should be free to direct their online experience, and not have a search engine or a business decide what they see. People passionately hate pop-ups, and don’t form favorable opinions of the unwanted brands that pop up. Turning them off imposes a burden on the user, and blocking all pop-ups may interfere with desired experiences on other sites. Much preferable would be inviting users to allow some dynamic messaging when they are open to receiving it.

In that same vein, customers want to choose the frequency of interaction. A positive purchase experience can easily sour by excessive promotional emailing. One respondent told me she regularly unsubscribes from chosen brands who spam her, and those brands fall off her consideration list. I myself have done this. Another respondent expressed anger over being “tricked” by a brand who slipped in a subtle clause on an e-commerce site that then obligated her to buy something she didn’t realize and didn’t want. In her words, this should have been opt-in, not opt-out. But she also told me she really appreciated that when receiving promotional material from a company she had not previously bought from, it clearly stated that she was receiving it because she had purchased from XYZ. That transparency was enough to make her feel positive about the old and the new brands.

The marketing practices mentioned here are common. Industries are built on them. But as more data is collected from more connected ‘stuff’, these issues stand to exponentially multiply. It’s not about what’s legally allowed; it’s about customer perception and experience. The more an organization empowers a customer to truly have choice and control in the data relationship, stronger loyalty and brand reputation will be the reward.

Please share your thoughts and perspectives!

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In the third of a five part series on “Building Relationships,” Matthew Falls of BusinessUSA shares his insights on utilizing your research to connect with potential customers.


You’ve identified the companies, agencies and program offices that are most likely to use your product or service. You have read their most recent press releases and blog entries. You also know the names of the leadership team, program managers and contracting officers for those programs. You’ve connected with them on social media networks. You also know those companies most likely to fit with your core competencies.

If you don’t know this information, you probably have not done enough research and it is best to find out this information. It will provide the basis for starting your matthewseries3relationship with a company, program office, or a prime contractor.

There’s an event next week. Perhaps it’s an Industry Day, a program office is giving a seminar, there’s a networking event sponsored by a trade association or economic development agency, or perhaps you’ve identified a key contact and you want to set up a meeting. Maybe you are attending a trade show or industry event.

Do some research. Who is sponsoring? What programs or panel discussions are being offered? Can you contribute? Call the organization and ask how you can help with the event. Your research on the organization can tell you what programs they like to offer, what its membership does. Think about putting on a program for them in the future. This will better connect you to the organization and they will see you as a resource. Becoming a resource to them gives the organization the confidence to introduce you to an opportunity.

Focus on your goals for this event. Do you want leads, an introduction to someone, or just to build your brand? You’re not going to close a sale, so relax. You can take the time to nurture a relationship. Set performance metrics, i.e., I expect to have x substantial conversations that lead to an opportunity, I expect to collect x business cards, etc. Setting metrics allows you to objectively evaluate your performance and the usefulness of the event. Evaluating each event provides the information needed to make the most of your time, to focus on those events and organizations that provide the most value for you.

The SWOT analysis you did earlier has given you the information and strategic focus needed to craft a statement about your organization, what it does best and why the listener should care. People will want to know what you or your organization does and you need to have a clear vision that ties into your goals for this event.

When you meet that first person, pay attention to them. Look them in the eye, shake hands firmly and show an interest in their business card and what their position is in the organization. Figure out what concerns the person you’re speaking with; have a genuine interest in what they are doing. Ask about recent press releases, new initiatives they may be engaged in, talk about what they hope to get out of this event.

Make the focus on them. Don’t forget the human element of relationships. It is very important to understand what is possible and what the person that you are speaking with is capable of doing; if not, you’re wasting your time. The more you focus on the other person, the faster you will have the information to make a determination about this person.

The other person will ask about your business. Because you spent the time focusing on the other person in this conversation, you now have the information needed to craft your response around how your company’s product or service can be a benefit to the company. Talk about next steps. Leave the conversation with an action item. Write it on the back of their business card when you get a chance. Tell them that you will respond to them the next day.

If you get so lucky as to uncover a potential need and opportunity, try to learn who will influence the solution and the decision-making process. People connect to their colleagues on LinkedIn and some of them will be influential in the requirements development and selection process. Visit each of those buying influence’s LinkedIn profiles and pay close attention to whether they are linked to any of your competitors. If so, then that’s a red flag.

Sometimes there really is no connection to the person; you cannot provide what they need. Ask for a referral, do they know anyone who has a need for your product or service? If so, ask for a specific email introduction to their contact referencing the point of interest as an action item for this conversation. Write the contact’s name and point of interest on the back of the business card.

The event is over and you have a handful of business cards. Hopefully you wrote the action items on the back of the cards. Review the event. How did you perform against your goals? Be objective about the event. Perhaps you didn’t get many cards because you didn’t do the research versus the event not being a good fit for you. Maybe you didn’t get enough cards because you took too much time with a person. That’s good if it leads to a concrete opportunity, or a substantial conversation that moves the relationship forward. Keeping performance metrics allows to objectively evaluate the event, your preparation and your pitch.

Add the cards, points of interest and action items into your contact database and assign tasks for follow up. Always follow up when you say you will. It goes to your credibility, reliability and reputation for being able to deliver. These are some of the most important aspects in a good relationship and to gain the confidence of people who might be able to help you in the future.

At this point you have a few people who are connected to the opportunities that you’ve highlighted in your SWOT analysis. It’s time to cultivate these relationships, bring value to your contacts, assuring that they see you and your company as a valuable resource in their network.

Perhaps you don’t have a business development staff to make these contacts or your company is not located in Washington, DC if you sell to the federal government. Maybe you want to penetrate a different industry sector, line of business or another agency to win larger chunks of business.

Consider forming an advisory board comprised of very high-profile individuals who will open doors and act as advocates for your company. A properly constructed advisory board, whose sole purpose is to drive revenue, can turbo-charge your business development and harvest the value in your company.


Matthew Falls works for the federal initiative BusinessUSA, focusing on outreach to the state and local partners and the business community.  He collaborates with state and local economic development organizations to feature their program content on BusinessUSA and to introduce BusinessUSA as a resource to small businesses. 

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