Data Modeling is (Still) Data Governance

FEA01x - edited feature imageThe title of this feature should grab the attention of data modeling people as well as data governance people and, perhaps, ruffle both of their feathers enough to gain their interest. The truth is Data Modeling by itself is not Data Governance – in its entirety. But … Data Modeling is (Still) Data Governance. Let me explain.

Data modeling is still a data discipline. Yes, Even after all these years. Through that discipline we continue to design our organization’s data, reduce redundancy, follow standards, and build business-useful definitions for the data.

Data modeling actually does much more than that. Ask any data modeler of Mr. Hay, Mr. Hoberman, Ms. Lopez, and Mr. Silverston’s stature. They can tell you the value that data modeling brings to the organization much better than I can. Several have written about it on the pages of TDAN.com.

Data modeling can be done well, or … less well. Some data models include “cheeseburger” definitions (what is a cheeseburger? – a burger with cheese) and some have well thought out and validated business descriptions of data that make that data production and usage infinitely more valuable. The use of data modeling varies widely from organization to organization.

Some organizations have Enterprise Data Models (EDM) that are built to design the entirety of data for the organization. Let me write that again for emphasis – design the entirety of data for the organization. Developing the EDM is often a monstrous task that requires the involvement of a plethora of business and technical people discussing the detailed data and information needs of the organization. Some people view the enterprise model as the place to start the improvement of data and data quality across an organization. Other people view the EDM as a step towards defining and addressing the overall data needs of the enterprise.  Still, others view the development of an EDM as a big waste of time (no telling for some people’s line of thinking).

Some organizations model data for their internally developed information systems and/or for the data that resides in their data warehouse or business intelligence environment. Often these models are smaller than an EDM and are built for specific purpose – although many organizations choose to reuse components of existing models to create new ones. Again, data modeling is all about data discipline.

Other organization purchase industry data models follow described patterns for producing data models, and otherwise take immediate steps to acquire and place discipline around the design phase of defining, producing, and using data. Data modeling is, or has been in the past, viewed as the basis of data management activities for the organization.

There are many reasons to create a data model. These reasons include following data standards, reducing redundancy, putting business definition to data, and coming to grips with how to define data better or manage the definition of data as an important asset. There is no doubting that data modeling is both an art and a science but that the primary reason to model data is to instill discipline around defining data for the organization.

Industry definition tells us that data modeling is a process used to define and analyze data requirements needed to support the business processes within the information systems in organization. Meanwhile, the process of data modeling involves professional data modelers working closely with business stakeholders, as well as potential users of the data and information systems.

According to Steve Hoberman (another data modeler extraordinaire and presently the author of TDAN.com’s The Book Look column, my book’s publisher and long-time TDAN.com contributor), data modeling is the process of learning about the data, and the data model is the end result of the data modeling process.

So why do I say that Data Modeling is Data Governance?

Data Governance is the execution and enforcement of authority over the management of data. Data modeling can be considered the execution and enforcement of authority over the definition of data. The discipline of data modeling involves the “right” people at the “right” time to define the “right” data for the organization. This is the essence of Data Governance.

Data Stewardship is the formalization of accountability for the management of data. If you subscribe to the idea that everybody is a data steward because of their relationship to the data (a core tenet of the Non-Invasive Data Governance™ approach) then certainly the people providing information and assisting the data modelers must also be data definition stewards. And to think, the people that the data modelers work with have been playing the data steward role way longer then the term “data steward” has been trendy.

Data Modeling is Data Governance – or at least a piece of Data Governance – because it is discipline that is necessary to make certain the design of data is the way it needs to be. Organizations that do not model their data have a more difficult time improving the value they get from their data because their data becomes riddled with inconsistency and misunderstanding. Ask any organization that does not model their data if their data is being governed. The sure answer will be “no.”

That is why I say Data Modeling is (Still) Data Governance. Do you agree that Data Modeling is Data Governance? Respond if you do. Or if you don’t. I hope to hear from you.

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This feature was originally published in a similar format several years ago. There was also a Real-World Data Governance webinar by this name with DATAVERSITY. Search for it — I am certain you will find it. From time-to-time TDAN.com republishes older content that is still relevant today. Data modeling is still data governance just as it was back then.

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About Robert S. Seiner

Robert S. (Bob) Seiner is the publisher of The Data Administration Newsletter (TDAN.com) – and has been since it was introduced in 1997 – providing valuable content for people that work in Information & Data Management and related fields. TDAN.com is known for its timely and relevant articles, columns and features from thought-leaders and practitioners. Seiner and TDAN.com were recognized by DAMA International for significant and demonstrable contributions to Information and Data Resource Management industries. Seiner is the President and Principal of KIK Consulting & Educational Services, a data and information management consultancy that he started in 2002, providing practical and cost-effective solutions in the disciplines of data governance, data stewardship, metadata management and data strategy. Seiner is a recognized industry thought-leader, has consulted with and educated many prominent organizations nationally and globally, and is known for his unique approach to implementing data governance. His book “Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success” was published in late 2014. Seiner speaks often at the industry’s leading conferences and provides a monthly webinar series titled “Real-World Data Governance” with DATAVERSITY.

  • Dave Getty

    I really like Robert’s emphasis on Discipline in Data Management. A large part of the Data Modeling and Data Governance roles is the consistent effort enforcing standards, descriptive definitions, stewardship procedures, data quality, test quality and correct data usage, without which the impact of Data Management on the Business is diminished.

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