I recently had the opportunity to sit on a panel and discuss issues of data modeling. One question focused on the purpose of the model. As a data modeler, how often do you stop to think about why you're creating the model? When we dissected the reasons for developing the data model, they boiled down to two. The main purpose of the logical model is to understand, and the main purpose of the physical model is construction and maintenance support. In this column, we'll deal with the purpose of the logical model; a future column will address the physical model.

In one of my early projects, I ran into great resistance to the very notion of building a data model. After listening to the objections, I acquiesced and told my client that I wouldn't be building a data model. Instead, I told him, I would speak with businesspeople and take notes in a shorthand notation that consisted of rectangles and lines, with funny symbols at the ends of those lines. My client understood that I was building a model, but he also understood that the model was being created as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. The model would provide a way to understand the business, a basis for the physical structure needed to support the business.

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