Why You Need to Manage Your Database Changes

by Jan 22, 2020

Change is a constant in the lives of database professionals. It can manifest itself in many forms. At one end of the spectrum, new systems may be introduced that demand a modified skill set to properly administer. Less extensive changes such as updating a user’s login credentials are more common and take up a substantial part of a DBAs workday. Between these two extremes are many other changes that need to be made to keep their systems running smoothly.

From a purely theoretical point of view, managing the changes that are made to their databases is something that should appeal to a database team. Keeping track of what they have done will, at the very least, help them minimize lost productivity from repeatedly going over the same ground. They can look back at their collected changes and refrain from wasting time by identifying the actions that have already been taken to address an issue.

In a very small shop with a single DBA and a small IT staff, change management may be able to be handled informally. Simply keeping notes for their benefit may suffice to satisfy the administrator concerning previous changes they have made. Advising the rest of the team of these changes can be accomplished with an email or through personal communication with the handful of affected users.

Formalizing the Change Management Process

Most database professionals do not work in single system shops and need to employ a more formalized method of managing changes to the IT environment. It’s a necessary strategy to avoid chaos in a dynamic computing installation. But unlike some easily defined concepts like storage capacity, change management has a wide variety of definitions. Organizations need to decide how they want to control the changes that impact their infrastructure and, by extension, their customers.

Change management best practices suggest that several defined roles need to be assigned and work together to successfully implement changes. These roles are:

  • Change initiator – This role can be performed by anyone in the organization by identifying the need for a change. They should have a good understanding of the system in question including the feasibility of the proposed change.

  • Change coordinator – An assigned change coordinator assesses change requests, identifies their risks and impacts, prepares implementation plans and monitors the progress of the overall change process.

  • Change manager – Here is another assigned role that handles administrative functions like prioritizing changes, evaluating risks, and recording the change procedures and their outcomes.

  • Change Advisory Board – This group should contain representatives from across the organization. Their role is to conduct further evaluation of potentially risky changes and provide authorization for them to be performed.

  • Approvers – Change approvers will necessarily be different based on the work being performed. All groups that may be impacted by the change should be involved in the approval process. Management should also be involved when high-risk changes are planned.

  • Implementation team – The final step of the change process is to implement the change. This team should be involved in the planning phases and be on board with the overall and specific goals of the change.

Practical Reasons for Structured Change Management

There are many reasons to conduct change management in a structured manner. Here are some of the most important ones.

  • Communication between groups that may be impacted by a change is facilitated by a structured approach to its management. Areas that may have been overlooked when suggesting or planning the change can be identified by the individuals and teams advising and approving the procedure. Keeping large teams informed about changes made by its members is another aspect of communication that is vitally important in maintaining smooth operations.

  • Tracking changes can assist teams in identifying reasons for performance issues impacting their systems. DBAs with the ability to quickly see recent changes to their databases are in a better position to rapidly find a remedy to the problem. Reviewing the change log gives the team a decisive advantage when forming their remediation plans.

  • Regulatory compliance is becoming more important every day as governmental agencies define new standards for the handling of sensitive and personal data. The ability to track and demonstrate the changes made to auditors can spell the difference between passing and failing a regulatory audit.

Using the Right Tool to Manage Change

IDERA’s DB PowerStudio is a comprehensive database portfolio of tools that is comprised of four products designed to work together to improve and streamline system management. The DB Change Manager component offers a database team a platform from which to keep change under control and provide historical records to demonstrate the modifications that have been made.

The tool provides reporting capabilities that can track and report on changes and generate notifications when modifications are made. You can create snapshots of changes before they are implemented so they can be rolled back quickly if necessary. Point-in-time reporting can be used to furnish evidence of when changes were made to sensitive information to satisfy the demands of regulatory auditors. Multiple database platforms are supported including Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, and IBM Db2.

Don’t allow your database team to get caught in a morass of uncoordinated changes that leave them scrambling when issues or auditors appear. DB Change Manager will be a welcome addition to their toolbox and help everyone stay on the same page regarding the natural changes that are an everyday part of life in the world of database support.