Author: Graham Rhind
Publisher: Gower Publishing Company, 2001
Is your organization ready to take on the world market? Are you worried about whether your database structures are up to the task of going global? Do you even know where to begin? If your
organization is ready to roll and your databases aren’t, a great book to turn to is “Practical International Data Management: a Guide to Working with Global Names and Addresses” by Graham Rhind.
Designing databases to accommodate information from unfamiliar cultures can be a daunting task. In a world with over 240 countries and territories and more than 10,000 languages, going global
requires us to think outside of our own cultural boxes. Based in the Netherlands, Graham Rhind is well positioned to shed light on the difficulties encountered in managing global data. This English
author brings over a dozen years of international database expertise to his work. He is the president of a consulting firm, GRC Database Information, the publisher of two other books on
international data topics and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Internet Marketing. He clearly understands database fundamentals and the practicalities of global database design and
Rhind begins by discussing the challenges of thinking globally. He explains that the Internet forces globalization by bringing potential customers from around the world directly to the electronic
doorstep of every business. Rhind then covers database fundamentals. He defines a database, discusses different database types, the business uses of databases, and the types of information that
might be maintained in an international marketing database. The author then moves on to show how the temptation to squeeze data collected from people of one culture and locale into a database
originally designed for people of another can lead to problems. Incorrectly formatted names and addresses in a marketing database can harm relationships with customers by being an irritant and
causing offense by displaying corporate ignorance or arrogance.
According to Rhind, international address databases can be designed to optimize local mail delivery, data processing efficiency, or cultural correctness. After discussing the trade-offs between the
three goals, he recommends the more costly and time-consuming culturally correct handling of international name and address data. It is amazing to see the many different variations of address and
personal names that have evolved around the world. One of the great strengths of this book is an extensive table containing 42 different name and address data elements that the author identifies as
the maximum required to encompass all the name and address fragments that need to be stored, manipulated, analyzed, and output. Since these elements encompass most of the needed information for an
organization’s address and name database, Rhind’s table could serve as an excellent foundation for an enterprise’s own logical data modeling efforts and requirements discussions.
From this strong start, the book continues on to cover nearly every critical topic of data concern in globalization and localization. Topics covered include language, record lengths, numeric and
character fields, casing, address language, acronyms and abbreviations, punctuation, symbols, articles, diacritical marks, writing systems, transliteration, writing direction, Unicode, personal
names and naming conventions, company names, job titles, dates, times, data quality, data collection, and field labeling. The book culminates with useful practical examples of Internet name and
address data collection forms.
“Practical International Data Management” is a great contribution to database literature and illuminates a very important data management topic. Readers will find many moments of enlightenment
and come to appreciate the potential breadth and scope of a serious globalization and localization effort. As a data architect, I wish Rhind had included fully attributed logical data models for
international name and address data. However, by avoiding an overly technical approach and writing in an easy conversational style, Rhind has made his work more accessible to business leaders.
Unfortunately, the high price ($120) of this 164-page gem may make it less accessible to those doing the grunt work to make global databases happen. Nevertheless, the book is an excellent
investment and a great place to start for any enterprise tackling international database issues.