Lost In Data Translation? Forrester's Data Taxonomy To The Rescue

  • When it comes to data technology, are you lost in translation? What's the difference between data federation, virtualization, and data or information-as-a-service? Are columnar databases also relational? Does one use the same or different tools for BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) and for CEP (Complex Event Processing)? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg of a plethora of terms and definitions in the rich and complex world of enterprise data and information. Enterprise application developers, data, and information architects manage multiple challenges on a daily basis already, and the last thing they need to deal with are misunderstandings of the various data technology component definitions.

In a popular Hollywood movie, Lost In Translation, two main characters are "lost" in a foreign culture with humorously obvious incomplete interpretations of instructions they receive from a local movie director, and also "lost" in their personal lives, exaggerated by their displaced location. There probably isn't a single enterprise data/information initiative where stakeholders haven't experienced a similar "Tower of Babel" challenge of misinterpretations, different meanings, and dissimilar understanding of project components and definitions. Alas, unlike Hollywood, business technology (BT) professionals do not have the luxury of humoring such differences — most data/information initiatives are large, complex, and costly, and have a major effect on the business top and bottom lines.  Indeed, some of the top reasons business decision-makers whom Forrester surveyed cite for sound data and information strategy and architecture is to make better informed business decisions, improve and optimize business processes, and improve customer interactions and satisfaction. There's no room for misinterpretation in such mission critical objectives. A common language is critical for all stakeholders involved in data related projects.

  • With that challenge in mind, Forrester just created a Data Taxonomy - a collection of 55 components, organized by four categories (data, data processes, data interactions, data interaction channels), with up to four levels of subcategories and about 100 attributes and aliases describing the components. The research consists of a detailed spreadsheet based tool with all of the detailed taxonomies and definitions, plus a research document with illustrations of how it all fits together.
  • We'd like to make this a leaving and breathing Data Taxonomy and plan to publish updates soon. Please send all comments and suggestions to bevelson@forrester.com and mgoetz@forrester.com


The Perfect Ending to Lost in Translation

Had Boris, Michele and team written the screenplay to Lost in Translation -- inserting their amazingly clear and concise data taxonomy to help work through the myriad cultural and internal challenges -- the movie would have been a "happily ever after" story with Bill Murray getting the girl, Scarlet Johannson, after all.

But alas, that's Hollywood. Instead in the real world of data silos, we can use Forrester's data taxonomy to write our own tale. Without such a tool, comedy or it's close cousin, tragedy, will surely result.

a funny comment from an old colleague

an old colleague from PwC who's now a senior manager at a stealth data management vendor wrote
I have to say Boris that you are taking the fun of the way of communicating with customers. Half of my career has been spent asking follow up questions to define what people mean when they say "SOA" or "Big Data", let alone what they consider a "database" or their "SDLC". I have enjoyed the different answers the way a psychologist would a Rorschach inkblot test.