Making Business Data Modeling Easy PDF Print E-mail

January 2016 - The FoCuSeD™ Facilitator eNewsletter

business data modeling

Making Business Data Modeling Easy | Gary Rush Facilitation

Through my experience facilitating business data models I’ve learned that Data Analysts must develop facilitation skills to be effective. Data is crucial to business. Business needs to be involved in defining their data and Business Data Modeling is one of the most effective methods to define and document data and business rules. What I’ve found is that, businesses, through a facilitated process, are more capable of modeling their business data needs. The business participants embrace and own their business data model, developing a better understanding of their business as a result. They can look at their data and develop effective, meaningful taxonomies to extract and structure content enabling analysis of big data that is meaningful to the business. It also helps them identify where they have business rules out of sync with their practices or where they are missing needed information. Given that data is so crucial to businesses today, businesses need to take ownership of their business data model – Data Analysts who develop facilitation skills can make that happen.




Data Modeling is s one of the more difficult concepts for people to grasp unless they are experienced Data Modelers. Partly because of our fear of the unknown and partly because of the jargon and unnecessary complexity – we sometimes forget for whom we model. I have read books and articles about Data Modeling and have to wonder who understands the methods other than the author. Many have forgotten that unless a business understands and embraces their model, the model loses value. Each new methodology “expert” adds nuances and complexities to be able to develop “the right” modeling technique that covers any situation. Fortunately, the essence seldom changes and the basic concepts are simple. Business Data Modeling has nothing to do with databases, computer systems, or technology.


What is Business Data Modeling?


Business Data Modeling is a way of documenting the information a business needs to do its job and the business rules that it follows in managing its business. Data Models are a precise way to document data and business rules using diagrams instead of sentences because diagrams are less ambiguous and more concise. Most Data Modeling diagrams follow sentence-diagramming techniques to document data and business rules.


  • Boxes represent the data – these are the subjects and objects – nouns of the sentence.

  • A line indicates a relationship – the relationship is described by the verb or verbal phrase of the sentence written above or below the line.

  • Numbers in parentheses represent the minimum and maximum times the relationships occur – these are the adjectives of the sentence and capture business rules.

Collectively, these all represent the needed data and business rules for the business. Note: Business Data Models capture many, but not all of the business rules due to limitations in modeling techniques, but they are a great start, though.


Why Resist?


People resist Business Data Modeling because they don’t understand the process. Complex terminology and rules are understood by the modelers but not by the business. We forget that the models must be of the business, by the business, and for the business – so avoid the, “I model, therefore I am” syndrome. Terms like entity, attribute, cardinality, and sub-types generally intimidate people. I tend to think of entities as ghosts and entity relationship diagrams as ghost dating services. Cardinality is only used in St. Louis, Phoenix, or Rome! All terms are arbitrary labels and could easily and legitimately have been called widget, “thingamabob”, or any other agreed upon label. Never let jargon get in the way of understanding.




Business Data Modeling is not a complex process. The more we simplify and get people understanding and using the process, the easier and more effective it becomes. Data Models model a business. Therefore, the process used must be for the business, of the business, and by the business.


When we have to teach the business community how to understand simple notation – the notation is too complex. When we take models to an unnecessary complexity, the models lose effectiveness and focus.


Always ask yourself, “For whom am I modeling?” Business Data Models, done well, are highly effective.

When people stop looking at Business Data Modeling as a system or technical activity, the easier and more acceptable it becomes. KIS (Keep It Simple).logo