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How to organize an enterprise conceptual data model development effort

Why it is important to develop an enterprise conceptual data model, and how would I go about organizing a data model development effort?

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Developing an enterprise conceptual data model (ECDM) is important because it enables an enterprise to obtain a common view of one of its most important assets: information. The ECDM identifies the essential data entities and business objects as well as their relationships. It also provides a framework for developing information systems and application data models.

Organizing a data modeling effort to develop an ECDM will require executive sponsorship, as the ECDM will have enterprise visibility. A data governance organization that has broad involvement from high-level business decision makers would be an ideal overall sponsor and would be extremely helpful in obtaining the support of the various business units in an enterprise. Without executive sponsorship and broad business involvement, the ECDM will not find its wings and risks becoming shelfware.

Before starting your ECDM effort, be sure to have a plan in place. Here are some questions to think about in developing your plan:

  •   Have standards for conceptual data modeling been developed? If not, identifying these standards will be an important first step. Some standards to consider include notation, naming, diagram organization and presentation, subtyping, definitions, additional metadata, etc.
  •  What degree of support are you looking for from the business? How many user interviews are you anticipating at each business unit? Will you be requesting additional information from the users, and do you want them to participate in model reviews? (You should.)
  •  How will the ECDM be used? Identify specific use cases.
  •  What are some specific benefits that the ECDM will provide? This goes back to the previous question. But keep in mind this quote from IT consultant John Ladley that I really like: "Return on investment (ROI) on a model is like asking for the ROI of the blueprint for a new factory being built. The ROI is on the factory, not the blueprint."

This was first published in June 2010

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