Can Scrum Work for the DBA?

Agile! Scrum! Development methodologies! Sprint!

If you have a manager who reads any web page about being a manager, then you have probably heard about Scrum. Scrum development is very attractive from a manager or stakeholder’s point of view. You get short bursts of development and can see results quickly.

With my experience, companies with no scrum experience who want to adapt this method search the web and find a scrum coach and then book 1-3 day sessions. Being in these sessions before, I know they are long and extremely boring.

Having said that though, I have seen scrum in action and think it works great for teams that do it right. If you have a dedicated team working on one project then scrum can do wonders for you. Even if you have a couple projects going it can work well with an experienced scrum master.

Being a DBA though, I find it hard to fit into scrum. I have been part of scrum teams developing some application but usually only brought on to write some SP’s, create a package, or another smaller task. I end up sitting in on 2-3 hour sprint planning meetings and end up with a couple hours worth of work.

The other problem with a DBA and scrum is that a good chunk of the work that I get isn’t planned a week (or 2) in advance.

“Database guy, I need access to server 2930dkdks. It’s holding up production”

“Are you the guy who gives me the reports? I need 10 reports by 1pm today!”

“Mind helping out with this query? I’m not sure why it’s slow, I only use UNION ALL 10 times”

“Mind checking out that server? It’s out of space”

I would love to tell all these people to wait till next sprint but then I would have a lot of angry co-workers complaining to my manager.

This is why I feel scrum might not work for DBAs. Sure, I could factor in 30-40% of my time into each of my sprints to take outside requests but what happens when I only get one user all sprint who needs help for 30 minutes? Or what happens when Joe the engineer deletes the wrong database on the wrong server in the middle of day and you have to spend the rest of the day fire fighting?

The other problem is that I’m not on a team of DBA’s. I do dev work, I do admin work, and I do BI work. Whatever is needed from my co-workers and my company.

I love the idea of Scrum and thinks it works well for developers but not so sure it works for DBAs.

I currently manage my tasks with a to-do list and a backlog. I revaluate the priorities of my to-do list daily and if I finish everything I reach into the backlog until another request comes in. If the backlog is a bit bare, there are always improvements to be made to current systems.

Are you a DBA that uses scrum?

If so, how do you make it work?

If not, how do you get around the manager who loves scrum and insists that you be a part of it?