When your organization decides to pull the trigger on a cloud migration, a lot of stuff will start happening all at once. Regardless of how long the planning process has been, once data starts being relocated, a variety of competing factors that have all been theoretical become devastatingly real: frontline business users still want to be able to run analyses while the migration is happening, your data engineers are concerned with the switch from whatever database you were using before, and the development org has its own data needs. With a comprehensive, BI-focused data strategy, you and your stakeholders will know what your ideal data model should look like once all your data is moved over. This way, as you’re managing the process and trying to keep everyone happy, you end in a stronger place when your migration is over than you were at the start, and isn’t that the goal?
BI-Focus and Your Data Infrastructure
“What does all this have to do with my data model?” you might be wondering. “And for that matter, my BI solution?”
I’m glad you asked, internet stranger. The answer is everything. Your data infrastructure underpins your data model and powers all of your business-critical IT systems. The form it takes can have immense ramifications for your organization, your product, and the new things you want to do with it (and how you want to build and expand on it and your feature offerings). Your data infrastructure is hooked into your BI solution via connectors, so it’ll work no matter where the data is stored. Picking the right data model, once all your data is in its new home, is the final piece that will allow you to get the most out of it with your BI solution. If you don’t have a BI solution, the perfect time to implement is once all your data is moved over and your model is built. This should all be part of your organization’s holistic cloud strategy, with buy-in from major partners who are handling the migration.
Picking the Right Database Model for You
So you’re giving your data a new home and maybe implementing a BI solution when it’s all done. Now, what database model is right for your company and your use case? There are a wide array of ways to organize data, depending on what you want to do with it.
One of the broadest is a conceptual model, which focuses on representing the objects that matter most to the business and the relationships between them (vs being a model of the data about those objects). This database model is designed principally for business users. Compare this to a physical model, which is all about the structure of the data. In this model, you’ll be dealing with tables, columns, relationships, and foreign keys, which distinguish the connections between the tables.
Now, let’s say you’re only focused on representing your data organization and architecture graphically, putting aside the physical usage or database management framework. In cases like these, a logical model could be the way to go. Examples of these types of databases include relational (dealing with data as tables or relations), network (putting data in the form of records), and hierarchical (which is a progressive tree-type structure, with each branch of the tree showing related records). These models all feature a high degree of standardization and cover all entities in the dataset and the relationships between them.
Got a wide array of different objects and types of data to deal with? Consider an object-oriented database model, sometimes called a “hybrid model.” These models look at their contained data as a collection of reusable software pieces, all with related features. They also consolidate tables but aren’t limited to the tables, giving you freedom when dealing with lots of varied data. You can use this kind of model for multimedia items you can’t put in a relational database or to create a hypertext database to connect to another object and sort out divergent information.
Lastly, we can’t help but mention the star schema here, which has elements arranged around a central core and looks like an asterisk. This model is great for querying informational indexes as part of a larger data pool. It’s used to dig up insights for business users, OLAP cubes, analytics apps, and ad-hoc analyses. It’s a simple, yet powerful, structure that sees a lot of usage, despite its simplicity.
Whether you’re building awesome analytics into your app or empowering in-house users to get more out of your data, knowing what you’re doing with your data is key to maintaining the right models. Once you’ve picked your database, it’s time to pick your data model, with an eye towards what you want to do with it once it’s hooked into your BI solution.
Worried about losing customers? (Who isn’t?) A predictive churn model can help you get ahead of the curve by putting time and attention into relationships that are at risk of going sour. On the other side of the coin, predictive up- and cross-sell models can show you where you can get more money out of a customer and which ones are ripe to deepen your financial relationship.
What about your marketing efforts? A customer segmentation data model can help you understand the buying behaviors of your current customers and target groups and which marketing plays are having the desired effect. Or go beyond marketing with “next-best-action models” that take into account life events, purchasing behaviors, social media, and anything else you can get your hands on so that you can figure out what’s the next action with a given target (email, ads, phone call, etc.) to have the greatest impact. And predictive analyses aren’t just for humancentric activities—manufacturing and logistics companies can take advantage of maintenance models that can let you circumvent machine breakdowns based on historical data. Don’t get caught without a vital piece of equipment again.
Bringing It All Together with BI
Staying focused on your long-term goals is an important key to success. Whether you’re building a game-changing product or rebuilding your data model, having a firmly-defined goal makes all the difference when it comes to the success of your enterprise. If you’re already migrating your data to the cloud, then you’re at the perfect juncture to pick the right database and data models for your eventual use cases. Once these are set up, they’ll integrate seamlessly with your BI tool (and if you don’t have one yet, it’ll be the perfect time to implement one). Big moves like this represent big challenges, but also big opportunities to make lay the foundation for whatever you’re planning on building. Then you just have to build it!