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Data Abstraction and End-User Roles

Discuss about the Database End-User and Developer Collaboration ?

A database environment consists of various components such as hardware components, software components, database users, etc. Based on the required skill set and functionalities of database users, they can be broadly classified into many categories. The user roles of a database can be represented in a hierarchy. System administrators being at the top of the list, they oversee and supervise the overall operation of the system as a whole. Those who are more closely involved with the typical functions of a database include Database Administrators, Database Architects or Database Designers, Database Programmer and Database Analysts and last but not the least Database End-users (Wade and Chamberlin, 2012). End-users are the people who use the application i.e. the software program is designed keeping in mind that the end-users will use it. The role of the end-users is different from that of the database developers or designers and installers.

The database end-users require going through a preliminary training to utilize the functionalities of the database application. Lack of familiarity with the database design and inadequate knowledge about the database prevent the end-users from effectively operating the database systems packages. End-user training involves data entry, data processing, querying the database, creation and preparation of forms and reports. Workshops and on-site classes are provided to the users on the subjects of database query languages, maintenance, and configuration.

Data abstraction hides the minute detail about the physical structure and storage details and the complexities associated with them. Data abstraction helps to perceive the database as a series of layers. The database abstraction layers are formed at the beginning of database designing (Nicolaos and Katerina, 2015). The first model of data abstraction is the physical model. The physical model of a database includes the structural details such as indexing, clustering, and storage, etc. Physical layer hides these details for the logical structure model that includes the conceptual design of the database such as the relational model, table definitions, and entity relationship diagrams, etc. The function of the logical layer is to provide user abstraction from the highest layer that is the user layer. The end-user describes it with the help database views. Views originally do not have any physical existence; instead they are logically created virtual tables within the database.

On the basis of managing the database, end-users can be of two kinds. Some end-users interact directly with the database using the application programs and query language to get desired results or output. They need skills to run the various query languages such DML (Data Manipulation Language), DCL (Data Control Language) or TCL (Transaction Control Language). The causal types of end users such as high-level managers use sophisticated query languages.

Managing Data

Native end users can run frequent standard queries on the database to access or update the data stored in the database. Stand-alone users need to establish a direct connection to the database via online terminals.

Typically, the database developers need to go through a series of steps to build complete database application software. The first factor to consider is the end-user requirements. It is the reason end user's involvement in the early database design phase is so much required. It helps to eliminate any misunderstandings between the developer and end-users regarding the database requirements (Edwards, Mayernik, Batcheller, Bowker and Borgman, 2011). Then the developer needs to perform the task related to designing of the database that includes ER diagrams, relational model normalization, etc. Designing the application involves implementation of integrity constraints, database triggers, packages and procedures, transaction locking and sequences, enforcing security constraints, writing DDL and DMLs. Then there comes maintaining and updating the database.

Database access tools are designed for end-users which mean these are end-user oriented tools specifically designed for accessing the data stored in the database to retrieve relevant information. These tools permit the end-users to build SQLs by without typing the whole query although a basic knowledge and training are required. Some of the database software tools include XML, SQL, JDBC, ODBC and few of the RDBMS tools.

Most of the modern IT companies maintain a cross-platform database system; as a result the task of managing multiple databases becomes more complex.

 A sophisticated user with sufficient knowledge about the database architecture can have a more smart and efficient utilization of the database. End-users are the main focus for building a DBMS as they are the ones who will be using, accessing, managing, updating and maintaining it (Cooper, 2012). Occasional pieces of training are organized for the users to give them a full understanding of the working of the entire system so that they can operate on it effectively. Some workshops and seminars are conducted to provide relevant knowledge and environment for the users to explore and get involved.

End-user queries the database using general query tools such as Microsoft SQL Server. Working with the database involves different types and varieties of tasks and the end-users, in this context, needs to be familiar with the working methodologies and environment of database activities.

Stand-alone database users need to be trained in a specific software application that they are going to operate on a daily basis. These types of applications involve ready-made packages and graphic-based menus and options to interact and work with the particular database system.

Accessing Data

Sophisticated end-users are the engineers and scientists who require thoroughly going through all the features and functionalities of the database application so as to develop their project that demands the complex requirements. These end-users learn and familiarize with the DBMS facilities to closely work with the environment. The database developer’s manuals including the operation recovery and maintenance section should be thoroughly grasped and learned by the end-users of this type (Childs, 2013).

Parametric end-users interact with the database constantly by running queries to retrieve information as well as updating and populating the database with new information, generating reports, etc.

‘Data manipulation language’ (DML) consists of SQL queries such as ‘Insert,' ‘Update,' ‘Merge,' ‘Truncate,' ‘Delete’ etc. Data manipulation statements allow users to communicate with the database through the interface also known as the term ‘front-end’. The abstraction layers help to move the details further way from machine understandable language and closer to the human understandable language. The non-technical people i.e. the end-users use the terms ‘front end’ to refer to the user interface or the application and ‘back end’ to refer to the ‘DBMS or the server’. The traditional end-user training sets its focus on the internal structure of the database and SQL syntax as s learning tool for retrieval of relevant information (Rajbhandari, Shah and Agarwal, 2012).

Conclusion

The end-user training program employs mentors and instructors who come from database developer background. They can provide valuable insight to the practical knowledge and application of the database tools and techniques. The developers mentor the end-user trainees regarding the principles. It is the responsibility of the mentor to guide the end-users and make them familiar with the syntax of SQL as end-users cannot devote their time to learning the core operations and languages of database but they need to communicate with the database to perform their business related tasks (Chaudhuri, Narasayya and Symala, 2012). SQL is a mandatory tool for Database Management and almost all types of end-users who require operating with a database system need to be familiar with the semantics and syntaxes of SQL. It is their target as well as a challenge is to provide them with this knowledge in a user-friendly and comprehensible approach. The requirement is to form a sequence of query expressions in ‘ad-hoc’ basis. The ‘ad-hoc’ approach essentially involves end-users. The end-users are interviewed about the requirements and problem domain at the early stage of database designing, and the solution is developed according to the requirements.

Reference List

Chaudhuri, S., Narasayya, V. R., & Symala, M. A. (2012). U.S. Patent No. 8,307,343. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Childs, H. (2013). VisIt: An end-user tool for visualizing and analyzing very large data.

Cooper, R. (Ed.). (2012). Interfaces to Database Systems (IDS92): Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Interfaces to Database Systems, Glasgow, 1–3 July 1992. Springer Science & Business Media.

Edwards, P., Mayernik, M. S., Batcheller, A., Bowker, G., & Borgman, C. (2011). Science friction: Data, metadata, and collaboration. Social Studies of Science, 0306312711413314.

Hietala, P., & Nummenmaa, J. (2012, December). Supporting User Learning and User. In Interfaces to Database Systems (IDS92): Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Interfaces to Database Systems, Glasgow, 1–3 July 1992 (p. 392). Springer Science & Business Media.

Marshall, R., Cook, S., Mitchell, V., Summerskill, S., Haines, V., Maguire, M., ... & Case, K. (2015). Design and evaluation: End users, user datasets and personas. Applied ergonomics, 46, 311-317.

Mccormack, M. J., Kenney, A. R., Bryant, C. W., Covington, C. D., Dickinson, R. L., Coggins, R. E., ... & Hough, D. J. (2014). U.S. Patent No. 8,689,137. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Nicolaos, P., & Katerina, T. (2015). Simple-talking database development: Let the end-user design a relational schema by using simple words. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 273-289.

Rajbhandari, P., Shah, R. C., & Agarwal, S. (2012). Graph Database Model for Querying, Searching and Updating. In International Conference on Software and Computer Applications (ICSCA).

Wade, B. W., & Chamberlin, D. D. (2012). IBM Relational Database Systems: The Early Years. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 34(4), 38-48.

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