Interview with Steve Hoberman

Robert S. Seiner (RSS): Steve, thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you for the pages of You have had a busy couple of years since I last interviewed you. Briefly tell the readers what you have been up to, how business has been and especially focus on some of the great publishing experiences you have had.

Steve Hoberman (SH): It has been a while since our last interview. You haven’t aged one bit Bob. I can’t believe how fast time goes. Time flies when you’re having fun…or when you hit 40 or 40-something. I have been very busy focusing on training and my publishing company, Technics Publications. I have been teaching the Data Modeling Master Class (see for many organizations on site. In fact, last month I had to break up a near fist fight between two CIOs of Fortune 500 companies who shall remain nameless, who were both fighting to have me come to their organizations and teach the same week in February (slight exaggeration, but a man can dream, right?). Anyway, the publishing business has been doing well. As the economy tightens, IT and business professionals need to do more with less, and also need to continue to develop new skills, so folks have been buying IT books. This past year the Data Management Body of Knowledge (DAMA-DMBOK), Data Modeling for the Business, and the 2nd edition of Data Modeling Made Simple all made their debut. It’s been a pretty busy 2009.

RSS: We seem to run into each other in sunny and warm places – since that is where the majority of the industry conferences are held. Hopefully I will see you at the TDWI and EDW events over the next few months. My understanding is that you are providing tremendous amounts of data modeling education all across the globe. What can you tell us about your travels and how data modeling may differ across the world or even here in the states?

SH: Yes, I remember our near-disaster sailing adventure in San Diego bay. It’s really interesting Bob, but no matter where I travel on the globe I see the same data management issues, such as integration challenges, application teams neglecting data or the enterprise view, purchase of ERP solutions without thoroughly understanding how the system will impact business processes and existing applications – lots of exciting challenges that we all seem to share.

RSS: Fairly recently, you published Data Modeling Made Simple, 2nd Edition. Can you summarize the book for my readers and how it complements the 1st Edition?
SH: Ah, I’m glad you asked. The second edition of Data Modeling Made Simple has been completely rewritten. All of the sections from the first edition have been revised and expanded with new techniques and examples, including the chapter on the Data Model Scorecard®. This book also includes more on the process of building data models. Because as you know data modeling can be so emotional and full of passion, I have decided to begin each chapter with a poem. Each chapter starts off with a data modeling haiku, which is a three-line poem containing five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. Also new terms such as “Wayfinding” have also been introduced. In addition, clear explanations are provided for several vague concepts in our field such as metadata. I have also added some thought-provoking exercises, and a handy glossary and comprehensive index. What’s really cool about this second edition as well is that it includes more than just my voice. Graeme Simsion wrote a chapter on working with others, Bill Inmon wrote a chapter on unstructured data, and Michael Blaha wrote a chapter on UML. Graeme, Bill, and Michael each wrote amazing chapters, and I have already quoted text from their chapters several times in my classes.

RSS: Where can the readers get their hands on the 2nd Edition?

SH: Bob, I’m so glad you asked! This book can be purchased at all large bookstores,, and our own Technics Publications publisher website, Our publisher website has $5 shipping to anywhere on the planet and free shipping if you spend at least $100, so buy copies of this book for your family, friends, and neighbors.

RSS: I am not in the business of promoting specific product sets on these pages; however, since you are so tightly connected to the data modeling industry, are you seeing trends toward certain products and away from others?

SH: This may sound surprising but in shops I have worked in these last few years, Microsoft Visio seems to be used more than any other diagramming tool. Notice I say “diagramming” and not “modeling tool.” It is amazing how prevalent this tool is. I think though that as organizations mature their data management practice more robust tools such as ERwin and PowerDesigner are required.

RSS: Do you have a preferred toolset?

SH: Ahh…yes I do. Next question? [Smiling]

RSS: has been publishing your Data Modeling Addict column for several years now. Thank you again for allowing me to share your content with my readers. Last month (January) your column was just a little different from the others. What can you tell us about that column and any situations that resulted from that column being published?

SH: [Laughing] The TDAN publisher who shall remain nameless gave me a very tight December deadline. For fun he suggested I write a holiday ditty. I thought he was joking but he was serious. So I thought of my favorite holiday cartoon, Frosty the Snowman, and how I cried when Frosty melted away, but enough about my personal life. Anyway, that song Frosty the Snowman is such an uplifting catchy tune that I used it as the basis for Frosty the Data Modeler. It is such a catchy tune that I could not get the words out of my head all weekend while writing it! So far I have received three separate email chains from data modeling buddies asking if I’ve read the Frosty the Data Modeler poem. [Laughing] Must have been a memorable poem I guess!

RSS: What are your plans for your Data Design Challenge? Please share with my readers (that may not know) the background of the Challenge, the intent of the contest, basically anything you want to share?

SH: These challenges are wonderful, in my unbiased opinion. Whenever I encounter a problem where the solution is complex or contentious, I post it as a Design Challenge. Over 3,500 data management professionals receive the challenge every month or so, and I summarize all of the results and that summarization gets published in a top notch publication like TDAN. (No brown nosing intended Bob, but have I mentioned how much I like your shoes?). You can sign up on my website at

RSS: I always seem to ask this question – as a major player in the data modeling space, what do you see as some of the challenges that you and the industry are facing? Basically where is the data modeling industry headed?

SH: Our industry is changing at a breathtaking pace. I have been data modeling close to 20 years, and I see things changing more now than at any other point in time. I see technologies like cloud computing and mashups leading to gazillions of applications in our organizations that have been built “quick and dirty” without data models and without following standards. I see organizations at times abusing agile frameworks and ignoring the data model altogether. So I see an even greater need for data architects and data modelers in the future to keep us focused on our organizations’ holistic view, and reactively figure out how these apps work.

RSS: I just asked this question to Davida Berger (DebTech International) about the data management industry. Let me pose it to you this way. How is the data modeling education field changing and what has been the cause of the changes?

SH: I’d be curious what Davida said … she has a great perspective on our industry and where we’re heading. I guess…I am seeing small and medium-sized businesses taking a more active role in data modeling and data modeling training. In fact, even last week I had a phone conversation with a CEO of a small organization (less than 10 employees) where we were discussing enterprise architecture and industry data models! I hope this trend continues.

RSS: Any last comments or suggestions for the readers?

SH: Please buy the 2nd edition of Data Modeling Made Simple, and let me know what you think of it. Email me at I wrote this book to be the most easy-to-read and comprehensive data modeling text on the planet. Hope you agree! Thanks for interviewing me, Bob!

RSS: Thank you again for taking the time to hold this interview. I am looking forward to seeing and speaking with you again soon.

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