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Is It Time to Re-Think Data Modeling?

Originally published August 7, 2018

When it comes to managing data for modern, agile environments, is data modeling a roadblock? Or is it, in fact, one of the keys to achieving agility? If traditional data modeling will no longer support what businesses need today, what are the alternatives?

Pascal Desmarets, founder and CEO of Hackolade, believes that it is time to change our thinking about data modeling.

“The perception nowadays is that data modeling has become a bottleneck and doesn't fit in an agile development approach,” says Desmarets.  “With NoSQL being ‘schema-less,’ the perception often is that there is no need for data modeling ahead of coding.  You may pretend that it is not happening.  Or blame complexity, speed of change, culture, or developers' mentality.  Or argue that data modeling is actually agile.”

He argues that data modeling needs to be re-invented in order to remain relevant.  “When dealing with NoSQL and agile development, we propose that Domain-Driven Design should replace conceptual modeling.  Domain Driven Design is a language- and domain-centric approach to software design for complex problem domains. It includes a collection of patterns, principles, and practices that enable teams to focus on what's core to the success of the business while crafting software that tackles the complexity in both the business and the technical spaces.”

While continuing to do data modeling in the traditional mode may not be viable, neither, he argues, is following the impulse to diminish or eliminate the design phase in the interests of being “agile.” 

“There's nothing in Agile to suggest that one should skip design.  It suggests that design should be evolutionary and iterative.  Domain-Driven Design also encourages an iterative process, first at a strategic level to divide the work and focus on what's important to the business, then at a tactical level to understand the details of each bounded context.

Listen to The World Transformed's Fast Forward interview where Desmarets talks with hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon about the challenges that surround data modeling in the age of NoSQL databases and agile development. He outlines how Domain-Driven Design can help shape the future both for development teams and for data modelers themselves -- who may have more to look forward to than becoming extinct.  

About Pascal Desmarets

Pascal is the founder and CEO of Hackolade, a company that focuses on producing user-friendly, powerful visual tools to smooth the onboarding of NoSQL technologies into corporate IT landscapes. Hackolade's software combines the simplicity of data modeling with the power of NoSQL databases to provide reduced development time, increased application quality, and lower execution risks.


  • Phil Bowermaster
    Phil Bowermaster is an independent analyst and consultant specializing in big data, business intelligence and analytics. Phil is the founder of Speculist Media, which produces blogs, podcasts, and other social and traditional media exploring the role of technology, particularly data technology, in shaping the future. He works with select clients in developing and executing content strategies related to big data. Phil can be reached at phil@speculist.com.
  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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