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How Data Architecture can save you from dinosaurs

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Data architecture, Office for National Statistics

We always try and find ways to explain what Data Architecture is. We even penned a blog about it a few months ago to try and come up with a half decent analogy for it.

However, upon a re-watching of the classic Steven Spielberg dinosaur-based action movie, Jurassic Park I found myself thinking… Data Architecture could have saved the day here!

Apart from needing a new hobby, it then got me thinking about how Data Architectures principles could be applied to various movies – here are my top three:

Jurassic Park

It’s dark, you’ve been chased by dinosaurs over this warm island for too long and you decide to take shelter in the main compound. Bad news… that damn computer technician has disabled all the locks to make good on his escape.

You hear a noise outside… the velociraptors are trying to get in, you quickly scurry to the computer to find this…

Image of interconnected boxes
All Rights: The Instruction Limit Licence: Creative Commons Attribution

… a mess of files.

So, for those who haven’t seen the movie, one of the characters must hack into the computers and find the “door lock” button. Their job would have been so much easier if only they had a half decent Data Architect looking after this information.

Ensuring data is correctly stored and managed is one of the important roles we play within our organisations.

Having consistently labelled an easy to understand data and help it flow around an organisation easily.

In the case of Jurassic Park, a clear set of Data Standards would have made it incredibly easy to find where the door locks are!

Talking about finding information easily…

Lord of the Rings

What would Gandalf have given for a half decent set of glossary terms in the Minas Tirith library?

For those who don’t know the story, there is this magical ring that an unassuming creature called a hobbit has. The very wise wizard Gandalf thinks there is something not right about this ring and rides to a library in a place called Minas Tirith to look for answers. Those who have seen the movie will know after a quick montage he realises what is up, but in the books… he’s in that library for 16 years!

Imagine if the principles of a Business Glossaries had been embedded in Middle-Earth.

In short, they are a way of governing our organisation’s business concepts and terminology along with the associated definitions and relationships between those terms. A simple look for “Scroll of Isildur” or “One ring” and he’d be back to the Shire before anyone would have known there was a problem!

Also… Minas Tirith Library could have done with some better cataloguing. 16 years to find a book is way too long – a simple catalogue with the right metadata would also make looking up terms like “evil ring that could doom all of middle-earth” much easier to find…

However, while these two have been helpful in showing us how it can be used for good, what about if it is done badly?

The Matrix

For those who haven’t seen this action-packed film, the world is a giant simulation developed by machines to use humans as power cells. The heroes are a group of hackers who can go in and out of the world, or the Matrix, as they please that are trying to bring the whole thing down.

Now, one thing you can absolutely be assured of is that the machines, sentient artificial intelligence, would have an incredible data management system to be able to control the lives of every human and a whole robot army.

One key thing data architecture does is help make sure information flows around an organisation effectively and eliminates duplication of work. What the machines suffered from though is the same issue we face today – poor information management.

Not being able to track and monitor where all their assets are leads to Neo, Morpheus and Trinity being able to break the system apart entirely (Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine starts playing about now).

Data Architecture: Saving the world

What have we learnt?

As the examples above show, Data Architecture principles are not just boring standards or dull "to dos".

They are instead at the heart of all good digital practices.

We are always looking for ways to help standardise and use data so that it becomes easier for staff across our organisation, and across government, to make sense of the data they use.

Underpinning this work allows the government to be more relevant, deal with the challenges they face more effectively and, ultimately, help deliver the vital services this country relies on.

If you have any ideas of where Data Architecture principles could be used in a film - let us know in the comments!

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