Openly developing data models

I was interested to see the following announcement flow through my mailbox thanks to Google Alerts:

The Financial Services Industry is full of duplicated and repetitive tasks performed within each of the financial firms with little or no standardization in what is being done. One of the most affected functions is data management with the lack of standard data to describe the entities that participate in one or the other way in financial markets, and instruments created, traded and held in custody by entities. Entity data, instrument data, corporate actions and events data, pricing and evaluation data and position and transaction data is required to generate trading signals, calculate risk, execute trades, complete clearance and settlement, and perform asset servicing in the normal course of business. Many of the business problems occur because there is no standard list of terms and definitions to describe the required information as well as relationships between different terms. Additionally, there is no standard scheme that acceptably categorizes the various asset classes in which business is transacted and classification of entities in different business segments.

φmod is an open source project to create and continually enhance and maintain data model for financial services industry. Objective is to have a well-defined and documented model that can be of immediate practical use to industry practitioners. Anyone can download and use it and anyone can contribute to the project through proposed edits of and contributions to the content of the model.


Now I have very little notion of the operations of the financial services industry, but I recognise the general shape of this problem only too well, after many years working in HE IT. I suspect it’s a common problem everywhere: lack of standardisation of data, awkward interoperability issues, little motivation to solve the big problems of data exchange that sit between organisations. I’ve seen it at one remove in other areas of the public sector such as Health and the Police Services, and in the legal services industry too. So despite my lack of financial services experience (and indeed finances in general) I will watch this project with interest. They have posted their data model on github and have a simple governance model for collaborators. I hope they can succeed in showing that they can attract collaboration from competing suppliers and industry players. We should be undertaking more of this kind of low-overhead data-silo-breaking within the public sector. Initiatives like the Cabinet Office’s Open Standards Hub are useful in themselves, but could be greatly enhanced by collaborative activity to enhance and build standards that make the most of the data for which we all pay.

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