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Database operations is the development, maintenance, and support of structured data to maximize the value of data across the organization. This function includes database support and data technology management.

The management of database operations provide support to the organization for its data and information, from data acquisition to data purging.  Database support is at the heart of data management, and database administration practices are perhaps the most mature of all data management practices.  The activities of professionals identified as Database Administrators (DBAs) often are crucial to the stability of an enterprise’s data management environment.

Many DBAs specialize as Development DBAs or Production DBAs. Development DBAs focus on data development activities, while Production DBAs perform data operations management activities.  In some organizations, each specialized role reports to different organizations within IT.  Production DBAs may be part of a production infrastructure and operations support group.  Development DBAs and / or production DBAs can be integrated into application development organizations.  In a wide variety of organizations, DBAs serve as both development and production database administrators, and some function in an analyst role as well.

It is important to understand the activities of database operations, the differences between database management and data architecture, and how a robust enterprise data management program can organize the various components to allow database operations management to support an enterprise’s need for structured data for transactions and decision-making / analytics.

Data Architect vs. Database Administrator

A data architect designs the conceptual and logical data models and data flows that are based on the business requirements.  Using this information, the data architect will create models of the data without regard to physical / technical requirements, then create a physical model that will include technical requirements and constraints.  After the database architecture is designed, a data architect works with other information technology professionals such as programmers, system administrators, analysts, software engineers and database administrators to implement the database.

Production Database Administration

Production DBAs take primary responsibility for database operations management, including:

  • Ensuring the performance and reliability of the database, including performance tuning, monitoring, and error reporting.
  • Implementing appropriate backup and recovery mechanisms to guarantee the recoverability of the data in any circumstance.
  • Implementing mechanisms for clustering and fail over of the database, if continual data availability data is a requirement.
  • Implementing mechanisms for archiving data operations management.

A production database administrator supports completed applications that run business operations.  These operations focus on assuring data availability, optimizing efficiency, and promoting usability; once the database applications are operational, it is essential that they remain stable and accessible.  In short, a production database administrator’s responsibility can be identified as “performance, administration, recovery.”

Database performance management refers to the optimization of resource usage to increase throughput and minimize contention, enabling the largest possible workload to be processed. Since database performance cannot be achieved in a vacuum, it must be managed across the IT infrastructure, and in conjunction with systems and network administrators as well as application architects and development staff.  Administration refers to the daily/regular tasks that manage databases, including change management, reviewing database structures, ensuring security and providing authorization, etc.  Recovery (which includes backup) are the processes that create and manage a variety of backup/recovery/retrieval functions to ensure recoverability of data and metadata.

Figure 1. Database Administrator Role

Major Responsibilities of a Database Administrator


In many organizations, the database administrator is the role that is responsible for the development of any data models that are created before database development.  This is not considered to be a best practice, and enterprises with highly-developed data management programs do not adopt this approach.  Instead, high-performing organizations follow the standards and guidelines established by thought leaders including Codd, Date, Martin, etc., who recommend that business requirements be discovered and modeled with conceptual and logical data models before the physical data models are developed.  The physical data models become the basis for database design, but starting with the database design or physical data model will not identify the business needs appropriately.

Data Technology Management

In addition to management of database operations, database management includes the evaluation and selection of various forms of technologies to support databases.  Database management professionals, including database administrators, must participate in the evaluation, selection, installation, and administration of technologies (hardware and software) that support an organization’s data and information assets.

Some questions to be asked in evaluating database technology, taken from Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a technology management process model could include:



The roles contained in the phrase “database operations management” are some of the most established in the data management field.  Bringing the physical, technical, production-oriented database administrator into the realm of enterprise data management can be beneficial to the entire organization, since it demonstrates the value of data and information at all stages through the lifecycle, while giving the DBA a wider view of the earlier stages of data management development.


Dr. David P. Marco, LinkedIn Top BI Voice, IDMMA Data Mgt. Professional of the Year, Fellow IIM, CBIP, CDP

Dr. David P. Marco, PhD, Fellow IIM, CBIP, CDP is best known as the world’s foremost authority on data governance and metadata management, he is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of CDO, data management, data literacy, and advanced analytics. He has earned many industry honors, including Crain’s Chicago Business “Top 40 Under 40”, named by DePaul University as one of their “Top 14 Alumni Under 40”, and he is a Professional Fellow in the Institute of Information Management. In 2022, CDO Magazine named Dr. Marco one of the Top Data Consultants in North America and IDMMA named him their Data Management Professional of the Year. In 2023 he earned LinkedIn’s Top BI Voice. Dr. Marco won the prestigious BIG Innovation award in 2024. David Marco is the author of the widely acclaimed two top-selling books in metadata management history, “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository” (available in multiple languages). In addition, he is a co- author of numerous books and published hundreds of articles, some of which are translated into Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, and others. He has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University.

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