The Seven Deadly Sins of Database Management

In Christianity there is a commonly known list of “seven deadly sins,” which as Wikipedia explains, has been used to educate and instruct Christians concerning fallen humanity’s tendency to sin.

With that list in mind, I present the seven deadly sins of database management:


Simply put, sloth is excessive laziness. Sloth in data management will quickly lead to a poorly performing system. Examples of sloth in database management include not taking time and effort to keep the data clean, not keeping the software up to date, and ignoring the need for documentation and training.


This is the belief that one is better than all others. In database management this manifests itself as the belief that everything is fine, and there is no need to focus on more actively managing the data or database. Things will just take care of themselves. But as the saying goes, pride comes before the fall. Prideful management of data will eventually lead to big and potentially embarrassing and/or expensive mistakes.


The lust I see most often among my clients is the lust for better, faster, and shinier technology toys. But lust can also allow us to make excuses for not really exploiting the tools we already have. Lust for new things too often blinds us from seeing the value of things we already have.


One of the most common things I hear from my clients is: “We must be the most dysfunctional group you’ve ever worked with.” The fact is, too many associations operate under the assumption that they’re doing much worse with data management than their peers. This is a form of envy (“I wish we were as good as THEY are!”). Don’t get caught in this trap.


When it comes to data management, storage is cheap. And that leads us to over-consume, data management’s own form of gluttony. Too many associations are trying to collect too much information from their members and customers. And frequently, this data is never really used, or it is used very ineffectively.


The greatest form of greed I see among associations is the expectation of perfection. Too often senior management believes that if we only invest in the right technology, all of our data management problems will disappear. This is a subtle but deadly form of greed, the belief that we can have it all. The reality is that data management requires ongoing and active engagement, and perfection can never be achieved.


Wrath is anger. And many associations are really, really angry about their data management systems. Sometimes that anger is justified, but often it is misdirected or results from unfair expectations (see gluttony). Anger may be justified but be careful that it doesn’t become all-consuming.

In my experience, very rarely does an association exhibit all seven deadly sins. But too many associations are guilty of several of them. If you honestly assessed your situation, where would you fall?


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