data modeling

Data Modeling Explained

Keith Desphy
Keith Desphy6 May 2024 • 4 MIN READ

The process of translating ideas into software takes time and lots of organization. Data modeling helps visualize and structure these ideas.

Think of it like a standard flow chart. It helps build foundations for new software or reverse engineering existing ones. 

Doing so provides firms insight into effective data use based on business needs. However, we must understand some core concepts to fully understand data models.

What is Data Modeling?

Data modeling helps organizations identify data entities, their attributes, and the relationships they have with one another. It uses texts and symbols to visualize the flow of data.

Data management and analytics teams can use it for the following:

  • Identifying software requirements
  • Reverse-engineering software
  • Finding critical issues in databases

When organizations want to build a modern data stack, they need good data models. These data models result in scalable and manageable systems. Here’s a step-by-step guide to designing a data model. 

Steps for Designing a Data Model

Data modeling strategies have varied standards for representing data. All strategies contain structured processes with iterative objectives. But as a rule of thumb, designing data models follows this standard flow:

  • Identify Entities: Data modeling begins with identifying the entities, events, or concepts in the data collection to be modeled. Each entity must be coherent and logically distinct.
  • Identify Key Properties: Each entity type has one or more unique traits. A “customer” object may have a first name, last name, phone number, and greeting, whereas an “address” entity would have a street name and number, city, state, nation, and zip code.
  • Identify Data Attributes: Early drafts of data models include entity relationships. Each client “lives at” an address. If the model included “orders,” each order would be sent and paid to that address.
  • Map Attributes: This ensures the data model fits business needs. Formal data modeling patterns are common. Object-oriented developers use analysis and design patterns, whereas others use alternative patterns.
  • Finalize Data Model: Data modeling must be updated as business requirements evolve. Before launching new data models, they have to be validated. Ensure that it can be a foundation upon which future iterations can be built.

Importance of Data Modeling

Data modeling includes a company’s requirements in database planning. It enhances how firms handle large quantities of data. 

This is possible thanks to data modeling providing frameworks for preserving and boosting data resources. Well-established data models also improve the following:

  1. Boosts System Performance: Data modeling increases system performance and saves money. Without data modeling, a corporation may find its systems are too big. This is costly and unsustainable. With data modeling, companies can design apps and reports that use data efficiently and with fewer errors.
  1. Rapid Onboarding: A robust data modeling approach streamlines the onboarding of acquired organizations. The acquired company’s data modeling plan forecasts how soon two data sets can be integrated. 
  1. Defining the Database & Managing Assets: Data models are developed using many methodologies and languages. Data modeling strategies aim to establish a standard way to describe an organization’s data. Languages assist in expressing the model by creating standard notation for describing data connections between assets.
  1. Optimized Data Management: Logical data modeling produces a manifest outlining the needs and requirements of different elements of the company in a single data management strategy.
  2. Ensures High-Quality Data: The data modeling process guarantees greater data quality since the company’s data governance follows a well-thought-out plan.

Types of Data Models

Data models can be classified into four primary types: hierarchical, Network, Entity-relationship, and Relational. In addition, these models are separated into subcategories, each of which serves a certain function.

  • Hierarchical Model: This model’s basic hierarchy starts at the root and extends like a tree with child nodes. A child node has one parent but might have several children. In this data architecture, the entire tree travels from the root node when data is retrieved. The hierarchical data model has one-to-many data relationships. Data is kept in records and linked.
  • Network Model: The network model is a flexible database architecture for expressing things and their relationships. It may be represented as a graph, with edges representing relationships and nodes representing things.
  • Entity Relationship Model: Entity-relationship diagrams illustrate the ER model database structure. ER diagrams demonstrate entity set relationships and show attribute-containing entities.
  • Relational Model: Data tables aggregate constituents into relations. In this model, interconnected tables show relationships and data. Tables and rows represent records, while columns indicate entity attributes. Each record’s main key is unique.

Key Takeaways

Data modeling is a must-have for organizations handling large quantities of data. It helps define requirements and how data can be integrated to meet business needs. Here’s a rundown of important details to note:

  • Data models identify data entities, attributes, and their relationships to one another.
  • It helps businesses manage and utilize data more efficiently.
  • Finding database-related issues is more accessible and streamlined.
  • Organizations get precise software requirements.
  • Good data models boost overall system performance.