Transition to Data Oriented Design

    Here are some discussions on the topic of the transition from a document-based approach in design (hereinafter ATP) to a data-oriented approach (hereinafter DO). The main features and advantages of the DO approach in comparison with the ATP approach are considered on the example of the implementation of the most common business processes in project activities.


    Today, design organizations live in a document-oriented paradigm, and the bulk of the data is stored inside documents.
    This is due to the fact that after the completion of the design phase, it is still necessary to issue documentation to send it for examination and further to the stages of construction and operation. Those. documents are units of information transfer between participants in business processes.

    Such an approach was previously the only one possible. In today's reality, in many spheres of life, we are witnessing the transformation and transition from the ATP paradigm to a DO. And this is one of the main directions in the digital economy program, the implementation of which will determine the future of our state. In particular, the DO approach is the basis of all modern technologies that determine the so-called fourth industrial revolution.

    In project activities, the entire exchange of information is still entirely based on the exchange of documents.

    On the other hand, we observe a rather strong interest in information modeling technology (BIM). And although the implementation of this technology differs at the level of various states, industries and individual companies, the basic principles remain common. Among them, one can single out the use of 3D models and a common data environment.

    But is it possible to implement BIM technology in a document-oriented world?

    Let's start with the definitions.

    Data is the smallest separate entities that are used to describe real-world objects. For example, the data are the characteristics of the object, such as the overall dimensions or properties of the parameters of the medium (pressure, temperature, etc.).

    Documents are containers for data connected by a common context, which depends on the type and purpose of the document. Documents can be submitted both in paper form and in electronic form (pdf, xls, etc.).

    The whole point of the transition to a data-oriented approach is to transfer data from the body of the document to the database.

    Now let's figure out how the data is transformed into information for the user.

    Data is a collection of different characters and in itself does not carry any meaning. They acquire significance only in the context of the problem being solved. At this point, the data turns into information.

    In other words, a document is a data warehouse. And the user, selecting data from the document and looking at it in a certain context, interprets it and converts it into information.

    When a user works with a document, only a certain part of it contains useful data. In the figure, this part is shown as a filled rectangle.
    Information for a specific user is a collection of useful data from all documents and 3D models considered in a specific context.

    The same set of documents and 3D models contains data that transforms into different information depending on the users who work with this data, as well as the context of their consideration.

    When switching to data-oriented design, the information that is generated by the user remains unchanged. There is only a change of data source.
    Thus, the source of data that is transformed into information for the user is no longer documents. The source is the database.

    Compare the application of the two approaches on the example of several common scenarios of data exchange between participants in the design process.

    The first scenario is to fill out a common document together. For example, a questionnaire.
    With the ATP approach, each participant in the process sequentially fills in his part of the document.
    In the DO approach, the data for a common document is entered into the database in parallel by all participants, which reduces the overall duration of the process.

    The next scenario is making changes.

    With the ATP approach, making changes to one document leads to the need to make changes to dependent documents.

    With the DO approach, it is enough to make changes to the database. Documents will be generated automatically. The entire history of data changes is stored in the database and can be retrieved if necessary.

    The following scenario is also related to the change process.

    When changing any data, it is necessary to notify interested parties.
    With intensive work and the possible occurrence of various communication problems, there is a high probability of getting outdated data in the final document.

    With the DO approach, the data changes in only one place, documents are generated automatically. Therefore, the occurrence of such errors is completely eliminated.

    The approach to sharing tasks between departments is also changing. With the ATP approach, the exchange of tasks is an exchange of documents. With the ATP approach, the exchange of documents disappears. Because all data is stored in a single database, and the level of accessibility of certain data is regulated using the status system.

    When working with documents quite often there are situations when different versions of documents are scattered across different local computers of users or network folders. As a result, there is a loss of time searching for the necessary information.

    With the DO approach, changes occur at the data level, which are stored in a single database. Therefore, we can quickly access the necessary data and be absolutely sure that this data is relevant.

    Another simple scenario that reflects the process of transferring a document between users.
    In the ATP approach, the first user passes the document to the second user. He, in turn, extracts the necessary data from the document, analyzes it and generates a document for its further transfer to other design participants.

    In the DO approach, the first user just needs to enter data into the database, and the second user immediately gets access to them. The document itself is then automatically generated, which saves time.

    The greatest effect of applying the DO approach is given by its joint use with 3D modeling. A very revealing example is how much the time for making changes to drawings is reduced when using 3D modeling technology. In the classical approach, making changes to the drawings is a rather time-consuming process, which is fraught with the risks of errors when communication problems arise within the organization. When using a 3D model and a correctly configured tool for automatic generation of drawings, it is enough to make changes only in the 3D model. Drawings will be generated automatically.

    Naturally, this is an idealized process and its application is not always possible due to certain requirements for the design of drawings.

    Perhaps we will stop here and think about why, with all the advantages of working with data and 3D models, we are still working with documents.

    In my opinion, the main reason is the historically established practice, and the huge inertia of our system. Please write comments. Your opinion on this issue is interesting.

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