For an information system to be useful, reliable, adaptable, and economic, it must be based firstly on sound data modelling, and only secondarily on process analysis. We make this categorical statement because the structure of data is inherently about truth, whereas process is about technique.
In a familiar example, people have data properties whose values vary but whose structure is universal. All people have gender, height, weight, eye colour and other characteristics. And for many years bureaucracies have also deemed that people are single or married. Recently, however, many institutions have been forced to recognise that marital status reflects social processes, rather than human physiology. A person may be unmarried yet in a permanent relationship with another of the same or different sex.
Not only does society struggle to adjust to unconventional forms of personal relationships but in a smaller way information systems are stretched and twisted to record unanticipated facts which were, for example, mistakenly attached to people when those facts belonged instead to relationships or roles.
This human example demonstrates a common flaw of many information systems which fail to differentiate a process-defined view from the underlying structure of business information. If the original designers of these business systems had exercised data modelling disciplines, they would have discovered the appropriate structural location for each kind of data, and thus avoided the painful task of later remodelling and modifying (typically at great expense) a system already in production.
To summarise, ViaData focuses on data because:
- The structure of data is inherently about the lasting truth, whereas process is about current technique.
- A process orientation hinders a true understanding of the technology independent business process.
- A process orientation constrains thinking of what is possible, as participants tend to think in terms of current reality.
- Data is the only stable and lasting element in a business system.
- Is rigorous, testable and, thus, verifiable.
- Is fast, intuitive, fun and practical.
- Is easily understood by non-systems staff members.
- Is transparent, scientific, and therefore removes ambiguity and forces clarity.
- Surfaces hidden or un-stated requirements.
- Ensures that the very real, but often un-stated, requirement for a solution that is flexible, adaptable, extendable, re-usable, robust and easy to maintain is properly covered.
- Delivers new levels of understanding of the area being modelled to all participants.