Leadership in IT: Hiring a Database Architect


The purpose of the database administrator (DBA), or data architect, cannot be over-emphasized in an IT project. The goal of IT is the acquisition, warehouse, and retrieval of business learning to further the organization’s core business goals. In today’s environment, all the data that used to be captured on paper records is now captured in electronic records that must be saved for retrieval in an electronic repository. This entails the use of relational databases for all but the meagerest, simplest applications and the use of relational databases requires the skills of a database administrator and/or data architect.

There is little variation between the skill sets held by data architects and those possessed by database administrators. Diversity tends to be in the center of the two roles. Database administrators are liable for the health of the database and the data it manages. This engagement will include the architecture of new data and database dictionary as the business grows and changes. Database modifications may occur as a consequence of a project which delivers new functionality, or in acknowledgment of changes in the present data. The focus of the database administrator is the overall strength of the database and the data it contains, including database availability, review, and access. The data architect is a position that tends to come with the implementation of the original database occurrence and large development projects. It is the database architects’ job to guarantee that the database configuration and data dictionary are optimized to support the data storage retrieval and review the goals of the project.

The key distinction between the two skill sets is the emphasis on operational activities and the health of the database on the one hand and the weight on the execution of the database on the other. The database administrator will procure the work of the data architect if one is employed to design a database, or a database extension, as part of a project. They will be responsible for the support of the database they designed if one is not. Other than this difference the skill sets are very similar, indeed most database courses make no distinction between the two roles. This article will treat the two roles interchangeably; the best practices described here apply to both roles. The only time a different strategy is needed is when you have both roles on the project in which case you will be required to differentiate between the two roles and specify each role the work they are best suited for.

Large database sponsored projects requires the data architect skill set and the project manager should warrant that the person appointed to this role on the project holds the architect skill set and expertise. This is a role that is critical to the success of your project so if there is someone you in your company who meets your demands, add them for your project by identifying them as a crucial resource in your project charter. Smaller projects may be served by the architectural skillset controlled by the DBA. You should go over the DBA’s background and check for training and expertise in database design and performance. Previous experience in a database creation project would be ideal.

You will have to select the database architecture skill set externally if it isn’t available within your organization, or if the knowledge isn’t deep enough. Look for a data architect with expertise in large database projects with a broad knowledge of the relational database your project is using. All relational databases handle data the same way but each has its own unique set of tools and without experience in this area the architect will have too much making up to do to commit to your project. Your architect should also have expertise and proficiency in database normalization so that your design will follow the best practices for relational databases. Data modeling is also a skill your architect should hold. If your organization does not have anyone with these skills and you are restricted from recruiting externally, or cannot attract this skill set, think of training your DBA. Make sure that you register the training early enough in the project so that the DBA is on board for the outlining phase.

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