SQL Server Auditing – for Business Intelligence when your business is the database

October 13, 2015

Over the past decade or so, Business Intelligence has become a big deal. As a data consultant, most of my work would be categorised as being in the BI space. People want to have insight into how their business is operating, and be able to use this to do things better. Data has become one of the biggest influencers in the world today – now that data is available, intuition is generally seen as ‘not good enough’, and people want empirical evidence for making decisions …at least in my experience.

And that’s all well and good for people who run businesses. You’re just a DBA. Business Intelligence is something that you support, something that you provide, something which you do – for other people to consume.

My challenge to you is to become someone who consumes BI as well.

In fact, just about everyone within your organisation could do better by the stuff that you provide. And that ‘everyone’ includes YOU.

As a BI developer, you create reports. Do you track how frequently those reports are run? Do you track how long the reports take to produce? How often are they redefined? What KPIs do you put around that?

As a production DBA, you ensure that backups have been taken, and run tests to make sure every backup can be restored. Are you tracking how long those backups are taking? Are things taking longer? What are the metrics that suggest things are getting worse? Are you using predictive analytics to warn you a system might go down soon?

As a helpdesk operator, how are you being measured? I’m guessing that your manager is analysing something about the satisfaction level of the people you help, or the number of tasks you get through in the week, and what kinds of tasks use your skills better… are you consuming that information too?

As a team leader… well, you get the picture.

Data is all around us. Not just in the Internet of Things, but in the metadata of the systems that we use.

If you are a data professional, you might be able to spend a bit of time exploring what’s possible using data that is important to you, like SQL Server Audit data, or Windows Event Logs, or report execution logs. If you can get something working in your development environment, get clearance to put it on an Azure instance or production SQL box – something which is looked after and which is properly licensed. But then, start having conversations about how this kind of approach could help just about everyone in the organisation. Big picture stuff is useful, but everyone has a big picture which is useful for them. Stepping back from the minutiae of the day and making intelligent decisions about tomorrow is not just for senior management, but should apply to self-management as well.

DBAs – get familiar with SQL Server’s auditing. Explore the posts that are coming out today in the T-SQL Tuesday event hosted this month by Sebastian Meine (@sqlity), and use this as a source for your own Business Intelligence system.



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