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I guess it depends on what you want; both would be acceptable as a piece of bread. However, the occasion and its intended use will be the likely leading deciding factors. For example, a roll may be more appropriate for a dinner party, a bloomer with a bowl of soup, a sliced loaf for a sandwich, etc. Unless you specify ‘what’ you require from your delivery or your shopper then they may bring to you the wrong kind, and spoil the occasion or the experience you were hoping for. The same is true for data….

Specifying your data will go a long way to secure the right experience and prevent surprises when you go to use it in your decision-making analysis. A data dictionary is a widely-used tool to hold the specification for your data requirements but many organisations still fail in this area. Those that do not adequately specify their data needs continue with having the wrong kind or incomplete data sets. 

A data dictionary is relevant to any organisation that requires to have the right level of information to meet its business objectives. Data, by its nature, impacts on many activities and areas of an organisation. Poor or unknown data quality will compromise the ability of an organisation to achieve its strategic objectives.

What is a Data Dictionary?

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A data dictionary is an integral part of a database and is defined in the IBM Dictionary of Computing as:

“a centralized repository of information about data such as meaning, relationships to other data, origin, usage, and format”.

A data dictionary may be created in any preferred format from a plain text document, or series of documents, to a spreadsheet or even in a database of its own. It enables a user to interpret the content of a database without having to interrogate the database itself. It may also contain details of business requirements, for example what business process(s) the data supports.

What a Data Dictionary is not

A data dictionary is not a requirement catalogue for data systems i.e. functional and non-functional requirements in the specification of a system. It is however a specification of information required to be held by a system(s).

Why have a Data Dictionary?

An organisation needs information to manage its business and this information is derived from data. World Class organisations need to understand the business processes that enable successful asset management, these processes will require decision making and this is where the data provides value.

Governance

Governance should be in place long before the data dictionary is completed. A governance structure should provide leadership and controls to ensure the content and goals of the data dictionary are delivered. 

In summary: If you want to ensure you have the best possible data, or bread, then clearly state what it is you want and how you want it. Happy shopping!

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