Knowledge Nugget: Business Glossary vs. Data Dictionaries (by Kathleen W. and Stephanie W.)

So what is the difference between a business glossary, logical data dictionary, and a physical data dictionary? Often these terms are used interchangeably, but they have a very distinct purpose and focal point.

A business glossary is a central repository that contains key business terms whose names and definitions have been agreed upon by cross-functional subject matter experts. The glossary will also document the meta-data, or data about data, associated with the business terms such as key notes that document the institutional knowledge about the terms, best practices on usage, a reporting index where the term is used and associated code and decode values to name a few. The business glossary is designed for non-technical users.

The logical data dictionary contains the logical data elements and focuses on the relation between them, such as how the elements are used together, their origins, and their descriptions. The logical data dictionary closely represents the relatively unchanging business concepts and therefore changes infrequently. This tool allows for communication between developers and analysts.

A physical data dictionary allows a group to describe data regarding the physical data structure, type, format, and length, as they exist within a data schema. Physical data dictionaries provide technical users- database admins and architects- with a tool to document how and where the data are stored and how it must be referenced to consume it.

As of December 2018, the Physical and Logical Data Dictionaries are new to our Data Governance Center but we are very excited to start building them out. If you have not done so already, please let us know if you are interested in using these new functionalities!

If you have some Stanford-related institutional knowledge that you would like to share or an idea for a knowledge nugget, please fill out this form!