RSS: Steve, I appreciate you taking the time to conduct this interview for the readers of The Data Administration Newsletter (TDAN.com). You have been a long-time
contributor to the pages of TDAN.com so let me start out this interview by thanking you for your contributions to my publication and to the data and information management industry in general.
SH: Bob, I’m a TDAN.com fan and have been for over ten years. Whenever I teach data modeling I end the class with a slide listing some essential
websites for the data professional to stay sharp, and TDAN.com is always right on top of the list. Thanks for taking the time to interview me.
RSS: You and I talked about doing an interview that focuses on your latest book, Data Modeling for the Business, which was co-authored by Donna Burbank and Chris Bradley
with contributions from Mona Pomraning. This is certainly a great subject but there are many other questions I want to raise to you after we touch on the book. First of all, tell me
about the book, why you wrote it, who you wrote it for, and the impact that the book can have on improving the audience’s ability to data model for the business.
SH: Whenever a software application uses or creates data, there’s a need for data model. The data model captures the types of data and their
relationships. Many folks involved in software development need to use the data model, from business analysts through software developers. Therefore, the data model needs to capture the same
information at different levels of detail, depending on the audience. The techies are often comfortable with the logical or physical data model, yet business people and all those who interact with
business people, need a more user-friendly data model – one that is at a higher level of detail. This is where the High-Level Data Model (or HDM for short) comes in. It’s a one-pager
view of a complex business or application landscape.
Data Modeling for the Business is completely dedicated to this one-pager data model called the HDM. Donna, Chris, Mona, and I felt that there was a niche that needed to be filled in –
we need a book that gives the HDM the attention it deserves. Every page in the book talks about how to leverage or build this high-level model. So we wrote it to fill a gap in our industry
– we also felt that we needed to write this book so business people or IT people who work directly with business people or business analysts, can understand and use the concepts and
techniques, to increase communication between IT and the business and break barriers that exist between the two groups in many organizations.
So we wrote this book for the business, for IT…but every author will tell you that they write a book also for themselves. An author writes a book to clear concepts up in their own mind. I
have experiences and approaches with this big picture model, what to call it (I call it a ‘subject area model’), and views on the characteristics of this model. Donna, Chris, and Mona
also have ideas and experiences with this model – and I found the process of writing the book with them educational for me. We had long debates on what to call this model – for example,
is it a ‘conceptual data model’, a ‘big picture model’, a ‘subject model’, a ‘subject area model’? Should this type of model contain attributes or
subtyping? We had to come to agreement on these questions and other questions and these discussions reinforce your own beliefs or accept the ideas of a coauthor. So I learned quite a bit too
writing the book.
I believe this book can have a huge impact on anyone who needs clarification on key concepts in their business and coming to agreement with others on term definitions and project scope. We
wrote it for practitioners both on the business and IT side. The impact is tremendous, in my unbiased opinion [chuckle]. It will help anyone get the big picture. Read it, use the techniques and
templates, become a better analyst and modeler.
RSS: How does this book differ from your previous books, Data Modeler’s Workbench and Data Modeling
Made Simple, when it comes to audience and what is taken away from reading the book and using the material?
SH: Data Modeler’s Workbench is a book of templates and techniques for data modelers to
improve their designs, and is written primarily for data modeling practitioners. Data Modeling Made Simple is a concise overview to data modeling in general and is written for all audiences. Data Modeling for the
Business goes into detail on one type of data model in particular, the High-Level Data Model. Data Modeling for the
Business is for all audiences and provides enough detail and examples so that the reader can build and use these HDMs effectively.
RSS: We have both been in numerous situations in the corporate world and as a consultant where business and IT have had “different” opinions on the scope of management, the
definition, production and usage of data. Can you briefly explain how data modeling and use of the techniques described in the book can make someone a “hero” in your organization?
SH: The process of building a high-level data model as described in Data Modeling for the
Business, involves asking lots of questions as to the meanings of key terms. What’s a Customer? How about a Product? How does Customer relate to
Product? Etc. So the process of modeling can reveal issues in organizations, such as the Accounting department defining Customer differently than the Sales department. If we skip the
high-level data model and jump right into a physical design, often we don’t learn about such fundamental differences in the definitions of key concepts until it is too late. So I guess that
makes the person who builds the high-level data model a “hero.” The reason I hesitate a bit on the “hero” term is that usually the reward for uncovering such big issues as customer definition
differences isn’t directly recognition, but instead usually heated debates. Sometimes the data modeler has to use some real positive self-talk so they know they are the “hero” even though
others may not explicitly recognize what an important role they played.
RSS: I like your answer. In other words, the “heroes” are the modelers completing their job and they feel good that their
work is being used to improve the value and understanding of the data they model. Perhaps the true “heroes” are the people above them that allow the modelers to do their
jobs. This book describes many examples and scenarios where aligning Business with IT is completed using high-level data modeling and you provide many templates and tools that assist the
reader to follow the best possible approach toward that alignment. Where did the tools and templates come from and how have they evolved over the years?
SH: Data Modeling for the Business is a proud member of the Take IT With You
Series®, a set of data and business books written to provide very practical techniques. The authors are asked to share their experiences and toolset. Data Quality Assessment by Arkady Maydanchik, for example, contains his tools and approach for validating data quality. Chris Potts’ fruITion contains his approach on IT Strategy. Similar with Data Modeling for the Business – four individuals including
myself have shared their tools and templates from their own experiences. The combined data modeling experience across all four of us exceeds 75 years! So quite a bit of trial-and-error over the
years have led to the techniques in this book.
RSS: I mentioned before you wrote this book with two co-authors. What was it like to work with Donna and Chris, how did you each contribute to the finished product and will
we be seeing more co-authored projects for you?
SH: I found working with Donna, Chris, and Mona both enjoyable and stimulating at the same time – you are challenged more when you are a
coauthor. Donna, Chris, and Mona challenged me and I challenged them and after many phone conference calls of debates and discussions, some of our thinking changed. We had so many versions of each
chapter. In fact, we really got our money’s worth from the Comments feature in MS Word – we used this so much critiquing each other’s work, that I started having Comments features
nightmares where all my activities I am performing during the day are being critiqued. One nightmare in particular, I was brushing my teeth and a comment appeared saying “Don’t forget
to brush your molars.” … Anyway, I digress. The sweat and passion that went into the book I hope pays off for the reader.
RSS: How did that chemistry and the challenging make the book better?
SH: We challenged each other and had to come to agreement. For example, should attributes appear on a High-Level Data Model? Yes? No? Some of us felt
yes, some of us felt no. What did we decide? Check out page 62.
RSS: You not only write the books (sounds Barry Manilow-ish) that best address and simplify data modeling for beginners, intermediate and expert modelers, but you publish your own
books as well as the books of other. What made you decide to get into the publishing business and what have you found to be the most fascinating part of publishing books?
SH: Now I have that song in my head – thank you Bob! I decided to get into publishing primarily because of my Dad. My Dad wrote and published books and
I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I remember being five years old and responding with “I want to work in my Father’s office” when my kindergarten teacher asked me what I wanted
to be when I grew up. I really admired my Dad and felt it would be some kind of tribute to him. The name of my publishing company is Technics Publications, which was also the name of his
I published my first book, Data Modeling Made Simple, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to publish any more books until I had the opportunity to publish
Graeme Simsion’s Data Modeling Theory and Practice. Graeme is both a mentor and friend of mine, and I have always admired his ability to express ideas
clearly and often with humor. I jumped at this publishing opportunity and was really glad I did. Technics Publications now has 11 titles, and could be 12 by the end of the year – that’s a
hint, Bob. One of these days I am going to convince you to write a Data Governance book for our series. Would you agree to write a book if I can sing a particular Barry Manilow song completely in
RSS: Let’s talk about the singing next time we connect. Don’t know if you can carry a tune. I will certainly consider writing a book. There have been
many requests and you will be the guy I will go to. Believe it or not, my father was the publisher and editor of an ACS R&D journal in the chemical engineering and coatings &
resins industry. The influence was always there.
I have been told that writing a book is a lot like designing and building a house … or perhaps better yet, designing and building a complex data model. There are a lot of
thoughts that have to be organized into a cohesive form that can be followed to get the most value out of what you are modeling. What are some of the steps that you took to organize your
thoughts for this most recent book to design and build a book to address such an important subject of aligning business and IT?
SH: A technique that I have used and recommend my authors use is to write the back cover of the book first. It’s just a few paragraphs in length,
yet it requires the author identify the Message of the book. Why would someone want to buy the book, who is the ideal audience for the book, what does the book contain? All of these questions need
to be answered succinctly on the back cover.
RSS: You were also heavily involved in The DAMA Guide to the Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBOK) most recently published by your company, Technics Publications. I have
a copy of the DMBOK and I can tell you first hand that there is a wealth of knowledge in that first edition unlike any I have seen before. There were contributions to the DMBOK from so many
of the most brilliant of consultants and practitioner in the data management space. What exactly was your role in the production and delivery of this outstanding resource for data managers?
SH: I played a relatively small role in the making of DAMA-DMBOK, as compared to Deborah Henderson as Project Sponsor, Mark Mosley and Michael Brackett
as Editors, and Susan Earley as Assistant Editor. I took their work, which included their writings as well as their incorporations of contributions of over 120 data management professionals, and
published this to CD. DAMA-DMBOK contains over 450 pages covering the best practices in every data management topic imaginable. You are right Bob, it is an outstanding resource and I am confident
it is having a positive impact on our industry might the same way as PMBOK impacts project management worldwide. DAMA-DMBOK is selling so fast that Amazon.com recently had a two-month waiting
RSS: Am I correct to understand that the DMBOK only exists on a CD and not in paper format?
SH: Yes, this CD version contains a pdf file with DAMA-DMBOK that is completely searchable and has a handy index for quick navigation.
RSS: What led you and DAMA to that decision and how is technology changing the way that the data management practitioner gets this type of information?
SH: There were a number of reasons the CD format was preferred. A practical reason was time to market – we would rather spend the extra few months in
preparation for DAMA-DMBOK’s kickoff at Enterprise Data World doing editing and improving the product rather than have it tied up at a printer. Burning to disk takes about 3 weeks as opposed
to about 3 months with a printer. The CD is also much lighter on the environment. You would not believe the tons of greenhouse gases burning to CD saves over the paper book. The DAMA-DMBOK CD also
compliments the DAMA Dictionary of Data Management, which was released on CD last year.
RSS: Do you have any final comments about the book or the CD that you want to share with the readers of TDAN.com?
SH: Would it be too forward to recommend everyone go out to the Technics Publications bookstore, Amazon, or their local bookstores and buy Data Modeling for the Business and DAMA-DMBOK? Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RSS: No Steve, That would not be too forward. In fact, we supplied the links below to help them do just that.
Before I let you go here, I wanted to comment on meeting your lovely wife and daughters at the Enterprise Data World event in Tampa a few weeks ago. My wife and two daughters were on the trip
as well but they were in a constant vacation mode (you know how 16 and 12 year olds can be) and they did not take in any of the conference activities. Meeting your young-ins took me back to
the days when my kids were in their most formidable years. Life cannot be all about work. I know you work hard too. It’s amazing how having responsibility for the well being
of three lovely ladies helps keep us steered in a positive direction. Do you want to comment on the role that your family plays in making you who you are, and how it helps you to continually
provide such down-to-earth value to the data management industry?
SH: For me, everything revolves around data, so I am trying to teach my kids about data modeling and data management best practices. My six-year-old for
example, is the only kid in her class who knows how to normalize. Who cares about reading and mathematics when you got 3NF down!
RSS: Some how I have a hard time believing that … or at least believing all of that. 🙂 Have you come up with your idea for your next book yet?
SH: It could be a book on Data Governance (hint, hint Bob). There is also a second edition planned for Data Modeling
Made Simple which I think will rock our world – maybe a slight exaggeration here.
RSS: Ok, Ok, Steve. Seriously … Let’s talk about it again this week. I will put together a back cover, you can review it and we can procede. Does
anybody else like that idea? Then you can interview me on these pages. When the time comes, I will be glad to share the information with my readers right away. Thank you again very
much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to hold this interview with me. I look forward to a continued relationship of sharing valuable information with people that can make a
difference. You are certainly one of them.
SH: Take care Bob, and thanks for interviewing me!
- The Technics Publications bookstore which contains the complete Take IT With You® Series
- Amazon link to Data Modeling for the Business
Amazon link to the DAMA Guide to the Data Management Body of Knowledge
- Amazon link to The DAMA Dictionary of Data Management