Saturday 26 January 2013

Is DELETE necessary?

A  delete is a very destructive operation for a database. An operation which requires a lot of  thinking and preparation and most of the time is irrevocable. You can get in a lot of trouble if you delete the wrong set of rows and lose all that very important data!

Maybe the DELETE command should be banned from SQL. It was probably invented when the disks were tiny and it might not be suitable for our times, especially nowadays when we talk about things like BIG DATA.

Why do we have to delete anyway? We should invalidate and age out data and never destroy it. I am one of those who would say ‘keep it’ and never lose it. Even a typo, an error while entering somebody’s name in a text field, tells us a story. The number of attempts to get it right, the number of characters typed which were wrong, the time the wrong entry took place and much more, is data. Temporal databases come to mind. Why delete it?

But, one can argue that not deleting can be dangerous, too! One can claim that by refusing to delete we might end up with a lot of old, duplicated, bad quality, uncleaned, irrelevant and untrustworthy data.

Maybe the worse thing that can happen to data is to refuse to delete it enough. Perhaps because of this lack of enough deletes and fear of deletes we end up with all the 'bad data' found in some  database systems today.

Whatever you choose to do, delete or not delete, one thing's for sure and that is that you should know what you are deleting or not deleting. Choosing confidently what to delete comes from understanding and knowing your data model, and the implications a delete will have on the data model and never because the data is not required for your project! 

Sunday 6 January 2013

Salesforce basic data model

All applications store data. Data is stored in database tables - or objects in case of Salesforce.  In this post I will try to describe in simple terms how to read and Entity Relationship model or sometimes called a Data Model. I give reference to further reading at the end of the post.

Data is related with other data based on relations and associations. For example, as in Salesfoce's data model One Account can have Many Contacts. In the model these relationships/associations are indicated by drawing lines from one object to the others as seen in the diagram below, where the one side line is a single line whereas the many side of the line has multiple lines like crows feet.

Below is how this is shown in Schema Builder application of Salesforce

This is a standard way of showing relations between entities in databases and thus objects in Salesforce.

Walking through some of the Standard Objects and their relations to other objects in Salesforce

There are 2 dozen Standard objects in Salesforce, below I have drawn with Schema Builder few core standard objects of the core CRM implementation, I list them here:

How to read the Entity Relationship (ER) diagrams

Lets start by looking at the above Entity Relationship diagram from Salsforce.

The Lead object is kind of standalone object is not related to any other objects in one way or another. There are no lines! Usually Leads are not associated with any Accounts or Contacts until they are converted into one of them.

The Account standard object is related with the Contact standard object. Follow the line from Account to Contact in the picture. The Account object can be related to other objects too, you can even relate it to Custom objects (your own objects created and added to the model). The model can be extended depending on what application you are trying to build. To read the model and understand it, you just follow the lines, starting from the Account object to the other objects and looking at the end of the lines. If you see a Crow's feet like 3 lines at the end of the line, that is  the 'many' side of the relationship and if you see single solid line it is the 'one' side of the relationship. As you see in the model Account relates to Opportunity and Quote objects too.

All you have to do is to look into one object and follow the lines coming out of that object.  A tip: is best to start looking at the relationship between objects from the 'one' side and not the 'many' side. Try on your own, check how the Product object is  related QuoteLineItem object.

The implementation of relationships between the objects is done by special fields (columns) which are  called keys. In databases are called Primary Keys and Foreign Keys. The posting/copying of these keys from one object to the other is what creates the relationships and establishes the Associations. 

Data modelling and Entity Relationship diagrams are processes used in Software Engineering to analyse business requirement and build a 'database' Information System. Salesforce is such an Information System.

For further reading on Entity Relationship diagramming you can see links below. 
A search for 'Entity Relationship Diagram' in Google will return a plethora of other information.

Salesforce done a great job with Schema Builder. To obtain a Salesforce free developer account and have a look at it and start creating objects and see relationships go to: