Re: Data Dictionary

Subject: Re: Data Dictionary
From: Graham Dowden <Graham -dot- Dowden -at- RA -dot- PAD -dot- OTC -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Mon, 6 Apr 1998 09:52:03 +1000

Michelle Nolan <nolanmj -at- HOTMAIL -dot- COM> wrote:
> I have been asked to write a data dictionary for an Oracle database,
> which uses MS Access as its front end application. I've never done
> this before, and would appreciate any and all advice on data dictionaries
> (what is included, how to construct, etc.). What is involved and how
> can I come up to speed in a very short period of time?

To which Anthony Markatos replied:
> You have been asked to perform a very rigorous systems analysis. The
> reason you did not find much in the archives is that very few technical
> writers do this type of work. Indeed, most systems analysts go there
> entire career without doing significant data dictionary work.

Michelle has been asked to reverse engineer an existing Oracle database.

The ideal Oracle database design process goes like:
1 Use Oracle CASE tools to design database from business requirements, data
flows, entity relationships, forms, etc etc.
3 Generate database including its keys, indexes, packages and tables
4 Generate forms (front end)
5 Populate and test database
6 Iterate this process until its right

Reverse engineering goes like this:
Project manager: "Where is the database? It's supposed to be up
and running by now?"
Oracle CASE guru/architect: "OK OK OK I'll just create it and do the
CASE stuff later"

Much later, when the CASE guru has long gone, they realise they do need the
CASE stuff so employ someone to do it. A technical writer - ha ha.

Oracle CASE has a "reverse engineer" facility which enables existing
tables, indexes etc to be imported into CASE, from which the design
entities (data dictionary etc) can be created. Maybe.

The bottom line is that reverse engineering is not simple, nor does
it necessarily work, and Oracle CASE is a complex tool. The whole thing
needs a guru and almost certainly can't be done by a beginner unless
the database is trivially simple.

Therefore I suggest you ask your boss to contract a database
architect/designer to do this work, leaving you to do activities more
appropriate to your technical writing skills.

Graham Dowden
dowdeng -at- nms -dot- otc -dot- com -dot- au

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