REVIEWER: Rita Wheeler, data architect for Standard Insurance Company.
BACKGROUND: StanCorp Financial Group, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiaries Standard Insurance Company and The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York is a leading provider of employee benefits products and services. Founded in 1906 in Portland, Oregon, the company serves customers nationwide with group and individual disability insurance and retirement plans, and group life and dental insurance. The company has more than 33,500 group insurance policies in force, covering more than 4.9 million employees.
PLATFORMS: Standard Insurance Company (The Standard) is running Oracle7.3.4 and ERwin 3.5.2 from Computer Associates (CA) on Windows 95 and NT workstations.
PROBLEM SOLVED: In 1996, The Standard did not have an automated data modeling tool. We did not have a comprehensive understanding of all our relational database systems. The Standard was migrating from System Architect, which was unable to perform DDL creation or reverse engineering. We were about to purchase Silver Run when we fortuitously discovered CA's ERwin product. We purchased ERwin and its two companion products, BPwin and ModelMart, for full product functionality and integration.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Standard was able to use ERwin to reverse engineer legacy data to get a handle on what we had. We were finally able to categorize and manage all of our data, which cleared the way for new development. All of our data modeling starts with ERwin. When it can be justified, we will do logical models; but most of the work is physical modeling. We create our model designs in ERwin and store and manage these models in ModelMart. Most of our development is done in house. If we do purchase another vendor's package, it is reverse engineered using ERwin.
STRENGTHS: ERwin's three main strengths are complete compare, alter database and update model. We compare Oracle databases to the data model. At the time of purchase, other products did not have this capability which was very important to us given our abundance of legacy data. In creating the Oracle DDL with ERwin, we have noticed significant improvements as well. In addition to these three main features, The Standard feels that this tool is very easy to learn and use. Our staff was initially trained by CA's educational team in 1996. Our newer staff members have been seamlessly trained on the job; and as a result of ERwin's tremendous ease of use, they were quickly able to perform basic functionality within four to eight hours.
WEAKNESSES: The separation of logical and physical models can be a hindrance, but The Standard intends to resolve that issue by upgrading to the new release once general availability occurs. We have also found that when performing a complete compare between ERwin and Oracle indexes and public synonyms, some differences may not be properly identified. These are anomalies; but knowing so, we can adjust accordingly.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The Standard required a true data modeling tool integrated with a process modeling tool. We needed to reverse engineer data from MS Access, AS400 and Oracle. Selecting a tool that would not be shelved within a year based on its functionality was paramount. ERwin's companion products made this more than just a client/server tool. We were also very impressed with the technical support that CA made available.
DELIVERABLES: All data models and the database itself are created or generated from ERwin. We are able to create solid, robust and comprehensive data models, functioning to create the actual database system for applications we are running. The Standard is able to reverse engineer data models out of existing databases.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The Standard does not have any complaints with CA support. In fact, CA has contacted us from time to time inquiring whether or not we need further education and training. To date, CA's online problem-reporting tool, eSupport, has sufficiently provided us with any assistance we needed.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is online and quite handy for introduction to the product. At times, however, it can be a challenge to find adequate explanations when researching a particular area of the documentation. Therefore, we sometimes refer to other documented modeling books to complement CA's documentation.
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