What is the Common Data Model?

If you’ve ever run into challenges with data that’s nearly the same or should work together – then spent significant effort transforming fields and tables to work with your other data – you know that common data elements can save effort, streamline future development, and enable faster analytics. These capabilities and more are what the Common Data Model (CDM) can provide.

The Common Data Model (CDM) is a standardized, modular, extensible collection of data schemas published by Microsoft that are designed to make it easier for you to build, use, and analyze data. This collection of predefined schemas—consisting of entities, attributes, semantic metadata and relationships—represent commonly used concepts and activities, such as Account and Campaign, to simplify the creation, aggregation, and analysis of data. More information: CDM repo on GitHub

Common Data Model

More information: CDM poster

Why use the Common Data Model?

The CDM simplifies data management and application development by unifying data into a known form, and by applying structural and semantic consistency across multiple applications and deployments. In other words, once your data is in the CDM, you can use it in many different applications, streamline the creation or use of other applications to make use of that existing data, and easily build reports for each of them (or all of them). In addition, data integrators who bring data from a variety of systems can focus on landing the data in the CDM, instead of building a new model for each application.

Imagine you have three business applications – a materials app, a manufacturing app, and a sales app. Often each of the applications would be created independently, with different structures representing an entity, such as Account, that are nearly the same (but not) . With the CDM, you could build your data in a standardized format (using the CDM entities, attributes, and relationships), and then each of those three apps could use the same data as a basis. Of course each app could have its own additional data and schemas, based on the functionality of each app. But when it comes to development, your applications and reports could pull the common data elements quickly, cleanly, and with confidence.

And what about the need to create a fourth app? Your data is ready, in the CDM schema, so your development efforts can concentrate on business logic, not data quagmires and sticky transformations.

In other words, the CDM offers the following for your data:

  • Structural and semantic consistency across applications and deployments.

  • Simplified integration and disambiguation of data that’s collected from processes, digital interactions, product telemetry, people interactions, and so on.

  • A unified shape where data integrations can combine existing enterprise data with other sources, and use that data holistically to develop new applications or derive insights.

  • Ability to extend the schema and CDM entities to tailor the Common Data Model to your organization.

You can use the CDM to create new data repositories that match the schema, and you can also transform your existing data into the Common Data Model schema. Either way, the efficiency you get from standardization can expedite and streamline whatever you do next with your data.

Who uses the Common Data Model?

The CDM is used by a variety of customers, partners and products all with the same goal of unifying data in well-known form with semantic meaning.

  • Application Makers/Developers: Whether these users leverage code-based platforms or a low-code/no-code platform like PowerApps, they need to store and manage data for their applications.

  • Data Integrators: These users are responsible for bringing data from a variety of systems to make it accessible for Applications to use.

Historically, the work to build an application has been tightly tied with data integration, but with the CDM and the platforms that support it, the two can happen independently.

Common Data Model in action

Microsoft and its partners use the CDM for their own applications and offerings, and are building additional services and offering based on CDM schemas. The following examples show how organizations use the CDM:

  • Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps, which supports Dynamics and PowerApps, stores data in conformances with the CDM definition. In fact, many of the original business entities including in the CDM came from Dynamics offerings such as Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Marketing.

  • Industry verticals such as Healthcare are working closely with Microsoft to extend the CDM to their specific business concepts, such as Patient and Care Plan, so they can share data and build services so partners can easily exchange data, create interoperable apps and services, and create quick analytics that are easy to share.

Next step

How to use the Common Data Model: Describes the CDM in details, and discusses use cases for creating new data in CDM or transforming your existing data into CDM.