What do the musical score for a symphony and a logical data model for a computer application system have in common? While some may say they both put you to sleep, I suggest that both represent a
commonly understood, organized, well defined framework from which a complex, highly integrated, technical achievement of man may be obtained. The first is notation for the beautiful melodic sounds
from a set of instruments, coordinated and timed precisely, which when interpreted, result in a harmonic symphony of musical achievement, like Beethoven’s Fifth or Mozart’s Requiem. The second is
notation for the facts and operations of an enterprise, their classification, interrelationships, definition, and usage, organized concisely and consistently, which when interpreted, result in a
complex computerized application system of a business. Undeniably, symphonies and computer application systems are both technological achievements of man.
As the analogy suggests, both the musical score and the logical model must be interpreted. A non-musician seeing a musical staff with symbols for notes, sharps, flats and other markings for the
first time, can’t possibly be expected to play the music implied by the notation, much less be able to develop the symphonic score! But, without the simple notation and consistent rules for
applying the thoughts embodied in the musical staff, how would one musician communicate with another the mixture of sounds intended in a musical score? Yet for decades we have been building complex
computer applications without such a standard notation framework. Oh, we have our computer languages, like COBOL, Visual Basic and C, which programmers understand. But can any of these languages
capture the essence of the business and be understood by the business community? It seems these languages embody the technology too closely to serve this purpose.
Those uninitiated to logical modeling face an extremely challenging task when given the responsibility to implement the model, not to mention the task of developing it in the first place. However,
with the proper explanation of the concepts, diagram symbols, and content of the components of the logical model, it can be understood, communicated and implemented. The result is a high quality,
less error prone, easily maintainable system constructed in the appropriate technology. Just as a trained musician anywhere in the world can make use of written music, a trained business analyst
can learn and develop logical data modeling skills which can be applied from one business area to another. The use of these techniques will bring about the harmony we seek to ensure that our
implemented systems reflect our business needs.
Rebecca J. Duffy is a Data Architect for a large financial institution. She has 20 years experience in application development within the corporate environment, specializing in data modeling,
data administration and business requirements analysis. She has taught data modeling and consulted on data modeling and meta data management in data warehouse development. Rebecca was interviewed
for an article titled “Client/Server Data Modeling – Science or Art?” published in the January 1996 issue of Data Management Review magazine.