A DBA's Perspective on Managing Change (Part 1 of 2)

We examine the integration of database change management into a BSM strategy, plus the critical role of asset, configuration, and change management solutions in achieving BSM

The ever-increasing complexity and interconnections of IT environments have obscured the relationship between technical components and their effect on the business functions that depend on them. Business Service Management (BSM) has emerged as a strategy that enables IT organizations to clearly align their activities with the core processes that run modern businesses.

In this two-part series, we examine the role of data and change management in moving toward BSM. This week's article explores the general issues associated with integrating database change management into a BSM strategy and the critical role of asset-, configuration-, and change-management solutions in achieving BSM. Next week we'll look at proven techniques for enabling database administrators (DBAs) to automate and facilitate change at a technical level in order to optimize an overall enterprise change and configuration management process.

The Key to Delivering BSM: Managing Change

According to a study from Forrester Research, 80 percent of IT business-critical downtime is the result of unmanaged changes to the IT environment. In addition, 20 percent of this downtime is caused by scheduled changes that don’t take into consideration the dependencies between IT components and critical business services.

At a BSM level, change is about looking at the IT assets and their dependencies on critical business services and ensuring that all parts of the organization that must participate in the change activity are engaged appropriately. This speaks to planning and coordination, but one must also consider the implementation or execution of the change process as well. It’s crucial to ensure that these implementations are managed and tracked so that any adverse result can be identified and reversed quickly and efficiently.

To guard against downtime and subsequent loss of revenue, enterprises are employing asset, change, and configuration management. These solutions are designed to identify all aspects of the business-critical IT environment and provide a data repository that catalogs all enterprise assets and the business services they support. Asset-, change-, and configuration-management solutions help IT managers organize and control the workflow of a change lifecycle from request and planning through implementation and verification. These solutions identify and control known good configurations throughout the IT environment and contribute to efficient management, good communications, and ultimately control of the change process. However, once the approvals are given and the coordination is complete, each and every IT component in the change must be executed. The most complex IT component is the database management system.

Change management is often one of the most difficult tasks DBAs face because it involves unloading and loading data, changing objects, removing and adding objects—all have complex and often-unclear interdependencies. The nature of change in a database environment is tough. In order for the operations to be successful, DBAs are required to do things in a specific sequence, the order of which is often not obvious.

In addition, when working with any kind of change environment, the DBA must be able to answer the who, what, when, and where questions. To do so, DBAs must set baselines and establish change and access control to definitively answer these questions. Change-management solutions equip a DBA with the tools necessary to provide the execution controls and the detailed information for these processes within the database environment.

BSM facilitates the creation of a common view of the execution environment for the DBA by sharing information from the database tools, discovery tools, and other sources. With BSM, each database captured in the repository then has information about its configurations stored, allowing the DBA to provide answers about the database, such as the version of the loaded schema is loaded and the release and patch level of the database.

Relevant database information can then be used to populate impact models that determine logical relationships between business services and the underlying database components and processes that support them. Armed with this information, the DBA has full visibility into the database environment and is able to understand the impact and dependencies of the proposed changes throughout the overall IT environment.

Without effective change management solutions in a Business Service Management methodology, DBAs are unable to develop a comprehensive picture of the global impact IT changes will have on a company’s IT environment.

In next week's article, we examine the DBA’s role in the change process. We'll also present examples of change-related activities DBAs face regularly, the challenges in performing these activities, and the role BSM and automated solutions can play in alleviating those challenges.