Long time readers of my posts here know that I’m reviewing the books that most influenced my thinking about data and data quality management. This week’s book is Data Model Patterns, by Dave Hay. In the interest of full disclosure, I had the opportunity to work with Dave on a client engagement some years ago, long after I’d read Data Model Patterns. He and I have become close personal and professional friends.
I was working at a bank when I first learned of Dave and his work. The bank was struggling to understand its many relationships with buyers, sellers, agent banks, financial advisors, and so forth. Any company, government agency, or person could be any of these and the data model to understand it all was stunningly complex.
I’m trained as a statistician and we try to model the real world all the time. We tend to be suspicious of overly complex models. Now data modeling and statistical modeling are not exactly the same, but they bear important resemblances. Something had to be wrong!
Enter the counterparty model. Hay recognized two fundamental entity classes, the counterparty, loosely “anyone we do business with,” and the “transaction,” a deal counterparties playing various roles (buyer, seller, etc). Simple and precise! Life got a whole lot easier at the bank!
And this example illustrates why conceptual modeling is so important. It allows one to see the business in simpler, more powerful terms, and reap all the rewards that flow there from.
Hay explains the counterparty model in Chapter 1. Eleven more Chapters follow. Brilliant stuff!
Next up: Brown and Duguid’s The Social Life of Information