- Look to the future
It is a misconception that modern development methods eliminate the enterprise view of database design. I must emphasize that shorter development cycles does not mean sacrificing critical design processes for the sake of bringing up an app faster. It does mean that all development team members need to structure and deliver the components they own in a more iterative collaborative approach. Data architects must assure that their designs are flexible, reusable, and extensible.
- Listen to the business
This is a core principle for all of information technology. IT must remember that we are a service organization that needs to deliver value to our customers, the business. In the data architect world that means solving a business problem by providing them the data they need in a responsive, friendly and secure manner. Think of us as customer service agents. Good service equates to making our customers’ lives easier and helping them achieve their goals.
- Reuse, reuse, reuse
Are you reusing design components? Data architect efficiency is dependent on developing reusable, repeatable data designs. The old adage of not reinventing the wheel is very applicable to our work. Whether it be starting with an industry model or using consistent design patterns, data architects need to work from an enterprise catalog of objects and live a mindset of reuse.
- Standardize, standardize, standardize
This to-do starts with the common look and feel of reuse, reuse, reuse. Supporting many of the other to-dos, data architects must standardize their work processes. We become more responsive and respected when we can respond faster, deliver faster, and answer concerns faster. This comes with consistency of project tasks, artifacts, and roles and responsibilities. Being predicable makes us less of an unknown and more of a dependable partner.
- Be a team player
How did you score on “plays well with others” on your grade school report card? It is a lesson we learned in kindergarten that applies to our work today. The data architect’s work is about building relationships, being cognizant of team dynamics, and working in a collaborative manner. Sometimes it takes more work on our part to integrate ourselves into a team that does not value or understand our work. Technical people can be uncomfortable with relationship building. If that is you, work on overcoming that fear so that you can grow and excel in your work.
- Rely on the past
Don’t bask too much in your super star 3rd normal form RDBMS data modeler stardom. Data architects have lived in the relational world for years and developed many sound practices that live on today. Big data and NoSQL database technologies challenge us to move to a new mindset of how we model and deliver value to the enterprise. Keep your eye on new technologies and look for future opportunities. Data architects need to leverage our past knowledge and experience to transform ourselves into new roles and responsibilities.
- Be inflexible and unwilling to change
An important thing I have learned over my years is that things are constantly changing but somehow remain the same. I joined the data world in the heyday of structured analysis and design and live today in the culture of agile design. I have realigned and grown my core data competency over this time. I had to be willing to alter and fine tune my work processes to work with ever-changing design teams and methodologies. A data architect’s resume needs to emphasize willingness to compromise and play the role of a team builder, not just a team player.
- Model on an island
No, the data models you create are not your data models. They are the enterprise’s data models. They are the development team’s data models. They are above all the business’ data models. Part of your work processes need to be frequent reviews of the design. Data architects need to seek input and draw on the business’ knowledge and needs. Do this to make you an enabler and not a preventer.
- Undersell yourself and discipline
Many a Dilbert comic strip talks down to the role of the marketer. Although it is a good laugh for us techie folks, it underplays the importance of marketing in making IT successful. Most data architects do not want to be a marketer. It is something that has to happen to ensure our success. It is making your models, metadata and artifacts visible and accessible to the enterprise. It is frequent conversations about the value of data across all levels of management, teams and business units. Each of us bears responsibility in making the voice of good data design known in our companies.
- Limit yourself to being data model czar
I suspect that you may be the data model guy or gal in your enterprise. That is an accomplishment and something to take pride in the recognition. The role of data modeler has grown over the years. Data architects need to be the manager of metadata, the teacher and mentor for the understanding of data, the champion for new data technology, and the voice in data governance. Our customers are diversifying as data technology becomes more accessible to more workers at all levels in more organizational units. Make sure you are delivering value to all the users of your data design across this spectrum.