DLM Health Check

tl;dr

DLM Consultants can help you to deliver database updates more regularly and more reliably. Start your journey with a DLM Health Check.

Below you will find a description of a typical DLM Health Check, a case study of an actual DLM Health Check at Farm Credit Mid-America, a testimonial, pricing, availability and contact details.

Overview

Database Lifecycle Management (DLM) is the way an organisation makes database changes and maintains them. The DevOps and Continuous Delivery movements have proven the value of various patterns and practices associated with managing code changes, both at a human and a technical level, for example:

  • Collaboration between people with different roles, skills and from different teams.
  • Rock solid source control processes.
  • Formal (preferably automated) testing and deployment processes.
  • Detailed monitoring and alerting.
  • Fast feedback loops, rapid iteration, quick cycle time.

At the same time, increasingly stringent data protection regulations such as SOX, HIPAA and the GDPR put various restrictions on us. We need to be able to demonstrate that we are keeping the data secure. The patterns mentioned above will help but we also need to consider:

  • Data access controls in production.
  • Data masking/cleansing for dev/test databases.

Typically, organisations are poor at DLM. Most are not confident that their database source code is in sync with production. They have few (if any) automated tests. Their database deployments are manual. Their development teams and DBA teams are not good at working together. Sometimes they are using sensitive production data in dev.

The result of these poor DLM practices is failed database deployments, broken database code, ugly and monolithic production databases and, occasionally, data breaches.

Our DLM Health Check package is designed to show a customer how they can improve the way they manage their database changes. We will not come in and do your DLM for you, because that doesn’t make any sense. We will help you to work more effectively together to achieve your own goals.

Simply put, we will help you to deliver database updates more regularly and more reliably.

A typical DLM Health Check

Of course, each time we deliver a DLM Health Check it will be somewhat customised to the specific needs of the customer. However, this is the pattern we have followed since 2016 and so far it’s proved pretty successful.

Phase 1: Discovery

We start with a discovery phase where we aim to speak to anyone who plays any role in turning ideas into relational databases and anyone who maintains them. These people might include developers, testers, DBAs, project owners, management, budget holders etc. During these discussions we’ll be reviewing the customer’s maturity against the five pillars of DevOps:

  • Culture
  • Automation
  • Lean
  • Metrics
  • Sharing

Phase 2: Resolution

Depending on the duration and scope of the engagement, following the discovery phase we may attempt to resolve some of the problems that we uncovered. Often this will involve putting together a technical Proof of Concept (PoC) with a small team which includes people with different roles and areas of expertise.

During this PoC phase, the DLM Consultant’s role will be to support the team to build their own solution, rather than to build a PoC for the the customer. Our role is to help a customer to understand and solve their own problems.

Phase 3: Read out

On the final day of the DLM Health Check the consultant will provide a readout to all stakeholders. These stakeholders are likely to include all the people the consultant spoke with during the discovery phase. It is important that all the right people are in this room in order that the customer can agree and commit to next steps. For example, this might include technical people from “dev” and “ops”, project managers and budget owners.

During this meeting the DLM Consultant will deliver their assessment of the customer’s current DLM maturity and the steps the customer needs to take to enable more regular and reliable deployments. This read out may include technical demos of the results of the Resolution phase.

A PDF version of the read out will be shared with the customer at the end of the DLM Health Check.

Case study: Farm Credit Services of America

What follows is an account of a specific five-day DLM Health Check that we conducted at Farm Credit Mid-America in September 2017. (Pictured above.)

Monday (Discovery)

During the day the DLM Consultant, Alex, met with developers, DBAs, testers, product owners, architects and business analysts. In the evening he observed a production deployment. The deployment had been planned for a while and the timing was a fortunate coincidence.

Tuesday AM (Discovery)

Alex and some of the folks he had spoken with on Monday held a retrospective with of the entire value chain associated with Monday’s deployment. As part of this they conducted a value stream mapping exercise to understand whether people’s assumptions about inefficient parts of the delivery process were accurate. This armed us with facts and statistics about the consequences of various issues.

Tuesday PM, Wednesday and Thursday (Resolution)

The group pictured above (the PoC team), including Alex, a DBA, a developer, an architect, and a DevOps engineer produced three Proof of Concepts (PoCs) using different strategies and technologies to solve some of the most serious technical problems that were uncovered during the first two days.

They were able to produce three separate PoCs because the scope of work had been kept deliberately quite tight and there were the right people in the room to put it all together.

Friday (Read out)

The PoC team spent the morning polishing their PoCs, demos and slides and after lunch they presented what they had learned about the human and technical challenges and the various proposed solutions. They were able to explain the reasons why they needed to make human and technical changes based on cold, hard facts and statistics that both technical and non-technical senior managers could understand.

Having tried out three separate technical solutions, each with various pros and cons, the team agreed unanimously on their preferred solution and a plan to make the necessary technical and human changes. Most importantly, senior management could see enough value to dedicate time and resources to the effort.

Testimonial

“I got the honor to work with DLM Consultants on a brief engagement at my former employer, We were looking to implement continuous delivery/deployment for databases.

Our DLM Consultant was extremely knowledgeable in this field as well as very easy to work with. Regardless if he was dealing with database administrators (IE: me), developers, or management, he was easily able to convey important concepts & key take aways. This was critical as there were many touch points. DLM Consultants were more concerned with finding the right solution for us than just selling additional services.

All in all, DLM Consultants were great to work with. The engagement was a huge success. DLM Consultants were also able to completely sell me (one of those grumpy DBA types) on the concept of database continuous delivery. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what will.

I’d highly recommend any organization to work with DLM Consultants. You won’t regret it.”

John Morehouse (Twitter, LinkedIn)

DBA at Farm Credit Mid-America

(The man on the left in the picture above.)

Price

Our price is straight-forward. We charge £6,000 + VAT plus expenses per consultant for a five day DLM Health Check.

This price is based on agreement with DLM Consultants’ standard terms and conditions including the agreement that we will add your company logo to the client list on our website and our various other marketing materials.

Availability

We are generally booked up about three months in advance – but it varies.

Contact

enquiries@dlmconsultants.com