Most people are surprised to hear that if they have data, they have a data model. Data models come in many forms, but essentially they function to a) organize and structure data, and b) define relationships between pieces of data. They are the foundation of any database/data holding space, although they’re often overlooked by non-data people.
A well-designed data model should be aligned with how the data will be used, and the needs of the people using it. Not properly anticipating or preparing for these needs can create issues down the line. For example, if we wanted to design a list of people we’ve already contacted about something, it’s easy to make the assumption that we’d just need a list of names. But down the line, we might find that we might need to reach out again and don’t have their contact information, or we want to reach out annually but can’t remember the last time we communicated. What then? Like with most data work, a lot of the effort goes into setting things up for success. Even if you don’t have a data person on staff, be strategic about how you design your spreadsheets and lists. For a super simple read on data models, check out this link.