Data Vault Ensemble Modeling

The devil’s in the details, or the devil is the details: Why, when & how top-down, big-picture modelling may save the day (and also improve your Data Vault journey)

John Giles, Country Endeavours

Models are only ever a means to an end. Sometimes car designs are modelled in clay – you can’t drive the models, but you can get valuable feedback on the visual impression of the proposed concept. Sometimes scale models of aircraft are tested in wind tunnels – you can’t fly them, but you can evaluate their aerodynamics. Models are cheaper to build than the real things, and serious consideration of design alternatives can be debated without breaking the bank.

Likewise, data models are only ever a means to an end, but if they drive open discussion on design alternatives, and contribute to better solutions that meet real business needs, they will be highly valued. And, unlike clay models of cars or scale models of aircraft, given the right environment, you might be able to press what I call the “big green Go button” and turn the data model into a real software deliverable.

Data modelling used to be seen by many as a strictly technical exercise, aimed at physical implementation. Increasingly people are referring to information modelling, and that’s all about the business. So here’s the warning – if data modelers can’t or won’t engage with the business to deliver value in a timely manner, at best they will be undervalued, and at worst shunned.

There are times big-picture top-down models may not only be sufficient for today’s urgent needs, but in some cases are preferable to a more detailed, rigorous bottom-up model. We will:

  • Look at why, when and where top-down models can be developed to deliver business value, then, more controversially, challenge questionable reasons given as to why some data modellers may still be developing bottom-up, detailed models.
  • Briefly touch on how top-down models can be developed in a timely manner, then introduce some free, “open” resources to help you.
  • Note some of the many ways a top-down model can be changed from worthless shelf-ware into applied business value, then dive into one such application – Data Vault design.

John Giles is an independent consultant, with a passion for seeing ideas taken to fruition. For 2 decades his focus has been on enterprise information modelling, enterprise information integration and enterprise information architecture. Over the last few years he has also gained international recognition in Data Vault modelling.

John is primarily a practitioner, having been responsible for leading teams to successful delivery of IT solutions across a wide diversity of industries. However, his pragmatic focus is backed up by a solid appreciation of the underlying theory, having presented internationally, and published widely, including in his book titled The Nimble Elephant: Agile delivery of data models using a pattern-based approach.