I think the DBA role will be more critical in the coming years. I have bet my business and career on this belief. While, databases are becoming more reliable and require less technical maintenance they are becoming more complex and offer more capabilities. When SQL Report Services was first released, few products used it, now, companies are dumping Crystal Reports and using SSRS. The Forester Wave, showed in 2015 MSFT owned about 50% of the BI/reporting market. Most of this was taken from SAP Crystal Reports and yep that, now somehow falls to the DBA. Most recently MSFT has integrated R into SQL Server, I think this will be a similar pattern IBM SPSS dominates now but MSFT will gain traction in this area and again this domain will fall to the modern DBA to know and understand.
You could reasonably but incorrectly argue that it was always the responsibility of the DBA to know these technologies, but from my long-lived career and my many opportunities to review job postings (see my job layoffs on my website), I started noticing DBA job listings with reporting / SSRS in about 2005. Most recently I have seen many employers forgo even listing the technologies are needed and instead, use the cryptic shorthand of SSAS / SSIS / SSRS and Tabular and data visualization. The role of the DBA has increased not decreased in terms of the technology required to perform the function successfully.
Attaining a competitive advantage with complex reporting, statistical and relational technology will never fall to your ordinary business analyst or mediocre bureaucrat. The DBA role has always had these types of responsibilities. In the early days, it was keeping the database and LOBA (line of business application) running. This involved antiquated system pages and someone who was dedicated to answering. Today the need for a pure technical person to keep the system running is less intense, but other business concentrations are needed. I talk about this in my post A Growing Share Of a Shrinking Market. I do assert that decreased need for pure tech, to keep the system running is offset by the organizational risk of advocating for the right set of technologies and the increased need for business skills.
In the early 90’s you could make a career out of knowing perfmon and knowing about system ram and CPU. Today you need to know all of that and how to move it to VMware or the cloud along with SSAS/ SSRS /SSIS. Today you need to know to query the data and then how and why you should surface the data. The simple ability to paint a report is not good enough DBA’s also need to know why the numbers are important to the business. If we also also stipulate there are other platforms vying a seat at the DBA/BI/Reporting/relational table. The number of ways an executive can make a mistake quickly multiples. In short, the DBA with business skills will be golden for quite some time.
Overall the DBA position has grown and changed.
DBA’s should acquire a balance between tech, business, and analysis.
I believe the DBA will continue to drive business savings and strategic advantage for many years.