Data Modeling is Data Governance

The name of this article is the name of a Real-World Data Governance webinar that I will be giving in September with DATAVERSITY and special guest Dave Hay. Dave Hay is a data modeler extraordinaire and author of several industry leading books on data modeling. He has contributed many articles to TDAN.com in the past and is very quick to view everything as a data model, a fact that became very obvious to me when we worked together for a high-level government organization several years ago.

When discussing the webinar we both thought the topic would make an interesting article as well. The title 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 Data Governance. Let me explain.

Data modeling is a data discipline. Through that discipline we 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 data modeling brings to the organization much better than I can.

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 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 select to reuse components of existing models to create new models. 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 organizations; while 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 Data Governance. Do you agree that Data Modeling is Data Governance? Respond if you do. Or if you don’t. Whether you agree with me or not, or you are just interested in hearing what Dave Hay has to say about my assertion; either way please register for and attend the Real-World Data Governance webinar titled Data Modeling is Data Governance on September 17th at 2pm EST. I hope to see you there.

Share this post

Robert S. Seiner

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.

scroll to top
We use technologies such as cookies to understand how you use our site and to provide a better user experience. This includes personalizing content, using analytics and improving site operations. We may share your information about your use of our site with third parties in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can change your cookie settings as described here at any time, but parts of our site may not function correctly without them. By continuing to use our site, you agree that we can save cookies on your device, unless you have disabled cookies.
I Accept