Data Base Management Systems--Without Careful Planning There Can Be Problems

FGMSD-79-35: Published: Jun 29, 1979. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 1979.

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A study was made to determine the problems encountered by agencies in acquiring and using database management system (DBMS) technology and what impact DBMS technology has had on agency operations. The General Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring Government-wide policy for the acquisition, use, and management of automatic data processing (ADP) resources. The Department of Commerce, primarily through the National Bureau of Standards, is responsible for providing scientific and technological advisory services and for developing Federal Information Processing Standards. The DBMS will provide: ability to better respond to changing information needs; effective support of on-line access to a database from remote terminals for data retrieval or processing; ability to develop programs in response to ad hoc requests for information; and reduction in redundant data. Efficient and successful implementation of a DBMS requires careful planning, which should begin with a comprehensive evaluation of user information processing requirements.

Of the 16 agencies visited that had acquired a DBMS, only 5 had implemented a true database processing system in which the data is integrated across functional lines and shared by multiple users. The other agencies continued to operate using traditional file-oriented processing techniques and used the DBMS primarily as an improved file access method. At many of the agencies, the DBMS accounted for only a small portion of the total data processing workload. The five agencies which had adopted the database approach had developed database implementation plans; however, not all the plans were comprehensive. It was apparent that most of the agencies had not adequately planned before acquiring a DBMS; consequently, they may have spent substantial amounts for automatic data processing resources that they did not need. The Federal agencies have not received adequate technical assistance from the National Bureau of Standards. Increasing efforts by Federal agencies to use the DBMS technology without adequate procurement policies and procedures are creating DBMS acquisition problems. In addition, the lack of DBMS standards could cause a Federal agency to invest in database applications that would lock it in to one vendor.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To improve the acquisition of DBMS software, the Administrator of GSA should establish clear and concise procurement policy and procedures that: (1) recognize the importance of DBMS software when an agency needs both the computer equipment and a DBMS, and (2) deal with DBMS application software conversion costs in evaluating competing vendor proposals in the computer system acquisition process. To insure that DBMS technology is properly applied and Federal agency investment in database applications is protected from being locked in to any one vendor, the Department of Commerce, through its National Bureau of Standards, should develop technical guidelines in collaboration with GSA to help Federal agencies: (1) determine when to use a DBMS, and (2) evaluate and select a DBMS on a competitive procurement basis. A family of DBMS standards should also be developed that recognizes diverse user needs.

    Agency Affected:


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