How the wisdom of Skipper and Gilligan can help you as a data modeler

I admit it. I am a child of the 50s and 60s addicted to sitcoms like Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, and Lost in Space. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized these sitcoms were pretty cheesy with predictable story lines. Looking back as an adult, I have come to realize that they have some redeeming value.

The formula for these sitcoms placed the cast in seemingly insurmountable dilemmas they had to overcome. A cast member, usually the least likely suspect, offered a solution which was almost always rebuffed by the others. Persistence paid off and somehow this solution became the key to saving the day. The shows always ended in an upbeat manner with the problem gone and everyone happy.

Data modelers deal with a lot of parallels to situations presented in these sitcoms. We can be presented an insurmountable challenge that we must overcome. It calls us to reach into our bag of tricks and past experiences to deliver a solution. Just like on TV, our work is done when the world is at peace and everyone is happy.

Some of my more interesting challenges from over the years deal with my interactions with developers. Development methodologies are not perfect. It is more common than we would like that developers have not followed the methodology as intended. I find the nature of my job presents me with these challenges and others I must overcome.

How we approach these development challenges has a direct input on how effective we are in our profession as data modelers. Our response and actions dictates how successful we will be with influencing and working with developers today and in the future.

This coming week, I am presenting a session, Solving common developer data design dilemmas with 60s TV sitcoms, at ERworld 2013, a free on-line conference for data professionals by data professionals. My session is a look back to the 60s popular sitcoms and how the casts solved everyday dilemmas. I apply their solutions to typical dilemmas data modelers face when working with application developers.

Some of the topics I will be discussing include:

  • The deployment date is set and there was not enough time to follow standards and processes.
  • Requirements are poor, vague or non-existent and that did not stop the development team.
  • Developers are coding their design and they just told the modeler they need the database now.
  • Over analysis resulted in spaghetti design of excess relationships that no one understands.
  • Unreasonable project expectations have been set and you have 8 hours to model the solution.

You have to stay tuned for this coming week’s episode to match the dilemmas to the sitcom and cast of characters. It promises to be an entertaining session that is filled with tips that data modelers can use when facing similar dilemmas.

If you have not already done so, I recommend that you register today for ERworld 2013. There is a very nice assortment of sessions coving today’s hottest data topics. The on-line conference application delivers a valuable conference experience complete with networking, chats and a virtual trade show.

See you next week at ERworld 2013!

Tom Bilcze
Modeling Global User Community President

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