Home > Articles > Data

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Determine the Requirements of the Database

How do you go about making decisions regarding database requirements? The key to making decisions lies in knowing where to find information. In spite of the varied nature of different companies and departments, the sources of information are common. As you develop different database systems, you will find the process of requirements gathering to be very repeatable. Among the many sources of information regarding database requirements, the most common include interviews, business forms, and existing systems.


For all the computing power companies use today, people still make the decisions and make things happen in a business. Don't underestimate the power of talking and—perhaps more important—listening to the employees of a firm. These people might not be able to speak in technical database terms, but then again, that is why you are on the scene—to be the gatherer and translator of information.

Through interviews, you will be able to learn how information passes through an organization. You will also be able to learn which specific pieces of data individuals rely on and the decisions they make based on that data.


You are putting together a puzzle.

When conducting interviews, don't limit yourself to just the management personnel and the frontline staff. Each level of an organization has a piece of the puzzle to contribute. Each is equally important because without all the pieces of a puzzle, you can never have a complete picture. As a result, without all the pieces, you can never have a complete understanding of the business and the requirements of the database you are being tasked with building.

Understanding Strategic Versus Tactical Needs

The decisions a company makes fall into one of two categories:

  • Strategic
  • Tactical

Strategic decisions are decisions regarding things such as whether to go into a certain line of business, whether to start or end a specific product line, and whether to alter head count. Strategic decisions affect a company as a whole. As far as timing is concerned, the strategic planning horizon is usually more than six months and can extend for time periods as long as five years. You might be familiar with your company's rolling three-, four-, or five-year plan. If you are tasked with designing a database for your company, you must have an understanding of your company's strategic plan. Your database might very well have to support those plans by providing information for decision making.

Whereas strategic decisions are long range in nature, tactical decisions are short range and much more detailed in nature. Strategic decisions focus on what a company wants to do; in contrast, tactical decisions focus on how those things get done. For example, a strategic decision might be to increase operations over the next two years. To fuel the growth, cash-flow requirements for the business would have to increase by 10%. Tactical decisions to support this strategy might include the following:

  • Increasing time to pay accounts payable from 30 to 60 days

  • Requiring payment of invoices in 10 days instead of 30 days

  • Finding new sources of bank financing

You might be asking what this has to do with database development. The answer is everything! Data is the lifeblood of a business. Without data, a company can't make decisions. To make the tactical decisions previously listed, a database must provide the required information in a usable format. Through interviews, you can learn much about what a company hopes to achieve, and in the process, learn what the requirements of the database need to be.

Business Forms and Documents

Interviews can provide both high-level and detail-oriented information. Examining and analyzing business forms is where you start to get into the nitty-gritty details. The following are examples of business forms:

  • Invoices

  • Reports

  • Shipping documents

  • Timesheets

  • Customer service surveys

  • Any other piece of paper somebody in the business uses

In an interview, you might discover that it is critical the database stores information about customers. Through the analysis and examination of business forms and documents, you discover the specific pieces of customer information that must be captured. Another example is tracking time. In your current project, the Time Entry and Billing database, you know you will have to keep track of time at some level of detail. A typical timesheet might contain some or all of the following information:

  • Employee name
  • Date of work
  • Start time
  • End time
  • Task performed
  • Project
  • Client

In looking at this example involving a timesheet, it becomes clearer as to what information the database must store. Chapter 4, "Database Design Continued: An Introduction to Normalization," focuses on how the information is organized. At this point, what is important is where to find the information.


Time to stop and catch your breath here. It is important to illustrate how interviews and business forms work together. It is all a seamless web. Interviews provide the big picture of what information the database stores. To some extent, interviews also can provide information on the details. However, an analysis of the business forms and documents a company uses provides the bulk of the detail information.

Existing Systems

It might very well be the case that your project's purpose is to replace an existing system. Perhaps the company has outgrown the capabilities of the existing system. Perhaps the existing database design simply does not meet the growing needs of the company. To understand the requirements of your database design, you must understand the current system. Most importantly, you must understand the shortcomings that might exist. If you don't know and understand issues regarding an existing system, the possibility of perpetuating database design flaws into the new system increases dramatically.


In many respects, the user-interface components of an existing system can be regarded as business documents and forms. For example, a physical piece of paper that represents a timesheet might not exist. Rather, employees might enter their time online via a time-entry screen. As a database developer, you will need to be aware that the line between disparate sources of information is not black and white. Further, there is no set order in which the different elements are reviewed. Finally, it might very well be the case that the same sources of information will need to be revisited. For example, after you have analyzed a business document, you might have to return to the process of employee interviews to get further clarification of the database requirements.

Remember the mantra of patience? The process of requirements gathering might seem like a never-ending process. Some believe that systems and databases are never "complete" because the business environment constantly evolves and changes. At some point, you will acquire enough information to establish an initial database design. Just because you create that first design does not mean the requirements-gathering process is complete. Remember, you might have to repeat the process two, three, or perhaps four or more times to achieve that first database design. As you gain experience, the process will become more familiar to you.

At this point, you have an understanding of where sources of information can be found for requirements gathering. The question now is how do you put an initial design together. The answer is in the form of a database model. The process of creating your first database model is the focus of the next section.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020