How We Wrote a Book on Data Management

The Value of Your Data book
The Value of Your Data book

Intention

A few years ago our company “Unidata” became a supervisor and de facto translator Russian edition of DAMA-DMBOK. Even then, wading through the complexity of terminology, adjusting the wording to the millimeter, dressing the dry text in the clothes of Russian language equivalents, we began to think about writing our own book. Still: DMBOK is breathtakingly good, but far from ideal. Firstly, many are frightened off by the volume and abundance of terms. Secondly, for all its size, it does not cover all areas related to data management. Thirdly, there is no Russian specificity. All this (and much more) formed the desire to go further.

For some time after the publication of this book, we came to our senses and took a breath. But the idea grew and grew stronger. Moreover, the analysis of “domestic analogues”, or at least books that sensibly talk about data, showed the unthinkable: in our country there are no good books about data at all. Amazing thing!

At first we wanted to produce an internal brochure, 250 pages, that would trace the main theme of data management. We intended to distribute it among the company’s employees, forming a single conceptual apparatus and understanding of the issues. All this was necessary to speak the same language. However, they quickly realized that the book begins to live its own life, many times exceeding the original plan.

Accordingly, the concept has also changed – now we wanted a scientific pop that would explain “even to housewives” all the intricacies of data management. For some time we lived in this concept, trying to simplify and somewhat primitive scientific postulates. Another option was to create a “DMBOK for dummies”, but we quickly (and quite rightly) moved away from that.

How to write a book and not go crazy

The terms also changed – the team of authors initially intended to master the project to create a book in six months, moreover, in their free time. Looking ahead, I will say that in the end we worked for 2 years, and, exponentially, more and more. Ultimately, the book was so stuck in my head that it was impossible to think of anything else. Now I perfectly understand writers who are “under the power of the book.” Well, if a purely technical book “eats the brain” like that, then what can we say about an art book!

As the term of the work constantly grew, the efforts became more and more, and the book completely took over the heart and brain, we faced the problem of survival in full growth. In the truest sense of the word. It is impossible to write a book (and most importantly, constantly think about it) in 24×7 mode and not go crazy. A number of domestic scandals with loved ones (one of them even occurred on New Year’s Eve at the table) clearly showed the authors that something needs to be changed. And the panacea turned out to be … the daily routine. Not without reason, many writers, for example, Leo Tolstoy, adhered to an absolutely clear regime. In the morning – breakfast, then – a few hours of work. Then lunch, daytime sleep. Mandatory walk. And in the evening – a few more hours of work. Only in this way, and in no other way, can one maintain a sound mind during such a long and hard work. Therefore, the authors made a strong-willed decision – no matter how much you want to write continuously until three in the morning, you need to follow the regime.

This means going to bed on time and keeping fit. One of the authors of the book, as part of unloading, rode a bicycle and walked along the street in winter. The other one relieved tension on the tennis court. For a long 2 years, a clear daily routine was our cure for insanity. Yes, it was not always possible to comply with it, because no one canceled other work duties besides the book, but it was the regime that became our guiding star, illuminating the path when it became very difficult. Believe me, there were many such moments in 2 years. But we overcame everything.

Book spread “The Value of Your Data”

Concept change

Let’s get back to the concept. About halfway through writing the book, we realized that we had grown out of sci-fi. The desire to chew on the complex in an accessible language is a good thing. Yes, and the circulation with this approach would have sold like hot cakes. However, we felt the strength to bring something truly scientific and powerful to the surface. Have a say in the industry. To help all interested readers to trace all the processes associated with the data. From that moment on, we realized that we were changing the concept once again.

The title of the book also began to change. If earlier the team of authors spoke of their work as a “book about data”, now we have dissected the value of these data. It was necessary to trace the entire chain – from the origin of data to its receipt, processing and transformation into an asset of the company. It was the data chains that were eventually displayed on the cover. At this stage, we seriously took up history – we needed to understand when such concepts as “data” and “information” originated. And here we unearthed a lot of interesting things.

To get away from excessive “theoreticality” we came up with the main character of the book – the abstract company “Telecom Double”, on the example of which we considered how the use of technologies in the field of data management allows it to develop, capture the market and flourish.

Who will publish a book for us?

The most important component of the project was the choice of publisher. It is not enough just to create a book, it needs to get its way to readers. After analyzing the publishing market in Russia, we have compiled a short list of the main contenders. We met with everyone. And, based on the analysis of the human and business qualities of the representatives of publishing houses, the proposed conditions and experience, we made a decision – we will publish in Alpina PRO.

From that moment on, we worked closely with a dozen “alpinists”, as we affectionately called them. Here are the tasks we solved together:

one. Cover creation. The starting point was “data supply chains”. It was necessary to create a face, a wrapper, which would later become part of the advertising campaign. Together with the publisher, we developed several cover options and settled on one of them.

Early cover designs

2. The visual style of the entire book. One cover, of course, is not enough. Given the fact that the book included several hundred drawings, it was necessary to come up with and implement a unique visual style that would, firstly, be easily perceived, secondly, look advantageous stylistically, and, thirdly, distinguish us from others . Of particular difficulty were the diagrams, which were supposed to occupy entire spreads of the book. A truly non-trivial task to implement!

3. Art style. When a book has multiple authors, this creates certain difficulties. Someone writes dryly, someone ornately, someone gives a bunch of examples, someone describes only the essence. All this had to be turned into a single coherent text.

four. Deadlines. The most important component of any creative process. To stop in time is a completely unbearable task for the author. And if there are several authors, the situation can get out of control. So the solution to this problem is a mutual process. The publisher puts pressure on the authors. Authors (when you need to get back the layout, for example) – to the publisher.

5. Advertising. To attract attention to the book, it must be promoted appropriately. And here the publishing house, which ate a whole pack of dogs on this promotion, of course, helped a lot. We worked here in close tandem with the girls from the marketing department, thank you very much!

6. Distribution. One of the most important positions on the project. It is not enough to write a book, it is not enough to publish, it is not enough to advertise well. It still needs to be delivered to stores. And here, without a publishing house, nowhere.

Guess which item out of these six was the most difficult? Of course, the fourth is timing.

Back cover of the book

Constantly moving dates

I want to tell you more about the “creeping” terms. And not by himself, and with the use of a specially invited star. So – memories of the project in execution project manager from Alpina PRO publishing house (author’s spelling retained):

“Work on the book at the publishing house probably began in September 2021, but it came to me in mid-October. At that time, the name was invented, the cover was prepared and agreed upon, but not so much was done from the content part. I remember there was a structure – content and also an introduction with the first chapter. Barely more. Nevertheless, we planned to give the book to print before the New Year. And even get it before the New Year holidays. The authors received a work schedule, but, as often happens, “during the journey, the dog could grow up” … therefore, before the holidays, we managed to: 1) get the manuscript (great luck, I want to note, because the authors did not want to part with the important thing remains to be added, without which, well, nothing at all”); 2) send the book to the literary editor; 3) receive the manuscript after the proofreading; 4) return to the authors for control reading.

At the end of January – it should be noted that after the New Year holidays we actively reminded of the need to return the manuscript to the editor, because without it we could not proceed to proofreading – the book still remained with the authors. And all because new thoughts appeared, topics that were not covered earlier, and, of course, illustrations – where would we be without them! The illustrations are a whole different story. We all knew perfectly well that a book with graphics is much more meaningful than a book without it. The number of illustrations kept increasing, increasing, increasing, until it exceeded several hundred.

The text also got bigger and bigger. New aspects appeared that required additions and even revision (!) of the structure of the entire manuscript. The text was reworked – some fragments were completely blacked out, others were transferred to a new place, others were added – until the beginning of April. (By this time the book—we had literally snatched it from the authors—had already passed the first proofreading and was being typed up.) It looked like this. The next drafted chapter was first sent to the authors for a day or two, then we made corrections – some were the size of a couple of conditional sheets (for the uninitiated – this is 1800 characters with spaces) – and then we gave it to the second proofreading. Then followed the obligatory author’s check (and thanks to them for this, because new paragraphs are not at all like a couple of new words). At the end of April, the book finally went to press. “Hooray!” But here is the real “Hurrah!” – much louder – about its shipment from the printing house. Now, already with an eye on the six months that went into its preparation, I understand that 6 months is nothing for a manuscript of such volume and depth of study.

Book launch in May 2022

From myself I will add that at the very end another significant problem arose. In connection with the events of the end of February 2022, a number of foreign suppliers of paper and cardboard left the Russian market. We all remember the moments when office paper turned yellow, and at the cash registers of the largest stores there were interruptions with the cash tape. In the printing business, all these processes were even more difficult. But we, together with the publishing house, overcame this.

What is the result?

And here is the book on my desk. 2 years of hard work, including the last six months, when, despite the vow to comply with the regimen, I went to bed no earlier than 3 am. Hundreds of hours that I spent not on my own children, but on work. Billions of nerve cells that exploded in bright flames in the brain thinking about the “Value of Your Data”. Missed birthdays of relatives. The belly that began to take shape from a long sitting in front of the computer … Was it worth it?

Author’s copies of the book

I will answer: of course, it was worth it. When all this was left behind, when we received the book from the press and presented it at the Data Awards 2022 event in Moscow, when I saw the keen interest of the public, when hundreds of people contacted usto just congratulate you on your success – in these moments you understand that all the sacrifices are not in vain. And the volume turned out to be impressive – almost 600 pages in hardcover. I sincerely hope that readers will enjoy the book. We, having recovered a little, will begin to work on its continuation …

Alexander Konstantinov

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