• Timeliness: Is the documentation current? When will the information become obsolete? Must it be updated at specific times or at the time of certain events (such as software product upgrades)?
• Reference- or task-centric: Is the documentation mostly reference material, or will it be used to complete some process? Does it include check- lists, flowcharts, or other means of managing a process?
Process is what DBAs do; it’s the tasks they perform. Typically, a process consists of lists of recurring tasks arranged in checklists, flowcharts, and the like. Some examples include:
• How to use a change management tool to add a column to a table
• How to recover a set of related tables to a prior point in time
• Steps to take in defining and scheduling standard image copy and reorg jobs for a newly created database.
Best practice processes must first exist and be documented. They must be up-to-date, and include information on when they were last executed, common problems, tips, and recommendations for future improvement or expansion. Best practice processes should be defined so they can be executed by anyone on the team. (In fact, in some cases, such as Disaster Recovery [DR] there’s a mandate that processes must be written so external staff can execute them.) Best practice processes also must be repeatable; that is, they shouldn’t require customization for each use.
Process discipline refers to how well processes and documentation are integrated into overall standards. Are processes executed the same way every time? Are similar processes invoked in similar ways, using the same set of standard tools, interfaces, and security authorization? Best practice disciplines usually have quality measures such as efficiency and probability of success.
The elements of best practices have three common traits: they can be shared, they have quality measures, and they can be continuously improved.
Once you begin to identify and develop your own best practices, these are the three factors you must address. Is your best practice documentation shared? Do your processes have quality measures? Do you have a process in place to continuously improve your practices? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you don’t have best practices ... yet. Luckily, these questions provide a guide to getting there.