One of the questions that I get quite often is "Do I need to create an enterprise data model?" In the case of a recent phone call, the caller stated that his company never built applications; they only bought off the shelf software so why would he need such a data model. Here are my reasons for creating the model despite the buy versus build philosophy.
The caller's company had bought a set of a large ERP vendor's modules. Now they were looking at another ERP vendor for a new module. They also purchases CRM applications and even BI ones. Why should his group worry about an enterprise data model (EDM)? I told him that basically there were two main reasons (there are other smaller ones but let's stick with the biggies):
1. The purpose of the EDM is to capture or document the "ideal state" of the corporation's data needs. In other words, what data is needed (the attributes and entities of interest to the company), how it is associated with other data (the important relationships between entities), the business rules behind the associations (is it a mandatory or optional relationship?), and so forth. When buying a COTS piece of software, you would use your data model to determine how closely the application will match to your ideal state. The analysis should determine where there is a perfect match and the software will support your needs exactly -- where the application is close but not perfect and some modification or tweaks to the software may be needed - and where there is no match at all and either the corporation must change the way it currently does business or look for another application that is closer to their ideal. Without the EDM, I don't know how you can make such an assessment of fit.
2. Since no company seems to have a fully integrated set of operational systems (even these folks had different ERP and CRM vendors involved), some sort of "ideal" or master set of translation tables will be indeed. The EDM can serve that purpose as well. With the EDM in hand, you have a means of mapping one application to the other using the EDM as "translation tables" to ensure smooth integration. The definitions of the data, documented relationships between the data, and so on, will ensure that a proper integration can occur.
Hopefully these thoughts will help you justify the need for an EDM in your own organization. As always, I welcome your input and experiences along these lines.
Your in BI success,
Posted April 26, 2005 10:29 AM
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