PostHow To Convince Your Boss (or Customer) To Re-Evaluate Your HA/DR Solution

Have you ever had a conversation with your boss (or customer, if you’re a consultant) that went something like this:

Boss: We need a solution where we can run SSIS packages on a secondary server should failures occur.
You: Why do we need it?
Boss: Because I want to.
You: We can run either failover clustering or Availability Groups.
Boss: I don’t like either of them. There’s too much dependency on the infrastructure. 

(true conversation between a DBA and his boss)

In most cases, unless you are really gifted with the art of persuasion, the conversation may fall flat on your face because no amount of technical proof can change your boss’ decision. However, as database professionals and caretakers of the data platform, it is our responsibility to guide our boss to make better, informed decisions.  When that happens, our jobs become better and easier down the road. Who knows, this may potentially lead to a promotion or a salary increase in the next performance evaluation.

Here are several ways you can convince your boss to re-evaluate your existing HA/DR solution:

  1. Prepare the atmosphere. You can’t just tell your boss that he’s made a wrong decision. That just doesn’t work. Remember that he’s in that position for a reason – make decisions. Ask for permissions to speak frankly and honestly. If you have a very good relationship with your boss, this would be easy. Otherwise, you may need to develop a good relationship first and make your boos feel that you have only the best intentions for him and the organization.
  2. Clarify and review the requirements. If you read my blog posts and articles, you know that I’m a die-hard fan of revisiting the requirements – Recovery Point Objective (RPO,) Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Service Level Agreements (SLA.) Requirements are my starting point for designing and deploying HA/DR solutions. I always tell my customers that I will not recommend getting a Ferrari when all they need to do is drive to the supermarket to get some groceries. When there is a unified understanding of the agreed upon requirements, its easy to get everyone on the same page.
  3. Use the “Sandwich Method.The Sandwich Method is a common strategy used to provide feedback or criticism to someone else. The approach is to
    • Start with an honest, authentic praise. This forces you to look for positive things rather than focus on the negative. It’s more for us than our boss because we’re surrounded by so much negativity. Any bit of positivity helps prepare the atmosphere and win over your boss. But be sure it is recent and related to the topic at hand.
    • Provide your feedback/criticism. This is where you provide the facts about your HA/DR requirements and whether or not your existing infrastructure is capable to meet those requirements. Stick to the facts, we’ll consider your opinion at a later stage.
    • End with a positive comment. Be sure to take notes during the conversation and highlight that to end the conversation.
  4. Provide a solution. It makes no sense to just comment and criticize if you won’t provide a solution. Besides, you’re not just a database administrator – you’re a solutions provider. Always think of yourself as someone who solves problems. Create several solutions that would meet your HA/DR requirements without blowing the budget. Recall that time when you have to present a project to your college instructor and have to defend it. Be prepared to explain your solution when asked for more details.

While the goal is to convince your boss to re-evaluate your existing HA/DR solution (or any type of endeavor, for that matter) there is no guarantee that you will get him or her to say “yes” all the time. But by following this simple guideline, you are on your way to becoming a “trusted advisor.” And this applies to any type of relationship, be it your boss or your spouse.

Question: Have you had a situation where you needed to convince your boss to re-evaluate your existing HA/DR solution? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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