REVIEWER: Jennifer Devine, senior architect, Barclays Wealth.
BACKGROUND: Barclays is a major global financial services provider engaged in retail and commercial banking, credit cards, investment banking, wealth management and investment management services, with an extensive international presence in Europe, the U.S., Africa and Asia.
PLATFORMS: Embarcadero ER/Studio is used across both Oracle and SQL Server.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Two significant pain points that ER/Studio solved were 1) standardization the enforcement of a common tool across the business and of common names and terms - and, 2) a location to store and share our enterprise resource data for education and communication purposes for technical and nontechnical employees, as well as all data models developed and purchased. Prior to standardizing on one modeling tool, each development team would choose the modeling tool they were most familiar with or already purchased in their development group. As is widely agreed, the more redundant the tools, the more time taken to maintain down the production and maintenance line. The overall intelligence used to build the model was often lost once the project was complete, because we found it difficult to enforce enterprise naming standards and usage for key elements (e.g., Customer, Product, Transaction, Account, Instrument, etc.). Choosing ER/Studio as our standard modeling tool allowed our information police (as I like to refer to us) to enforce that the best design practices were used as well as a common semantic layer. Additionally, when reviewing new software packages, ER/Studio allowed us to map our own business to that of the new vendors and capture the differences relating to linguistics between words and data elements. We use ER/Studio to store our technical and business definitions of our entities for our enterprise ERDs as well as detailed logical and physical models. These are all easily accessible (given appropriate security) allowing self-serve education as well as colorful diagram illustrations for communication purposes (e.g., slide decks, intranet pages, etc.). Its reusable, accurate and, most importantly, captured in a way that others can find and retrieve it easily.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: My experience with other data modeling tools prior to ER/Studio was that they were either not intuitive enough or were very buggy. With ER/Studio, regardless of how many models and submodels, how many entities or how many times I create and drop attributes or entities, it stands firm as a very stable product. Ive never lost work using the tool, including when Ive been unplugged in the middle of making changes. Other benefits include the short learning curve. Ive taught even the most junior modelers how to use ER/Studio in minutes or hours, rather than days. No formal training is required. This is imperative because, as a general rule, developers do not like to use tools unfamiliar to them; it is an easier sell to your colleagues with a tool like ER/Studio, where they can hit the ground running. Additionally, you can use it for more than just modeling. It creates DDL and DML for creating and maintaining your model in your development, test and production environments with a few clicks. Model comparisons, database-to-model comparisons and reverse-engineering models of vendor software (to understand how they may be relating and using your companies business information) are all simple tasks with ER/Studio.
STRENGTHS: Two of ER/Studios top selling points are that it is an extremely stable product and that it offers a very wide range of development and management tasks. Everyone from analysts, data modelers, DBAs and quality control can use ER/Studio to accomplish tasks for their roles. Its a tremendous knowledge center for business information, such as what your information means and how it is related. If a company makes an acquisition, downsizes or changes its model, with ER/Studio, you can easily present visuals of the impact to nontechnical types. It has helped me in calculating effort for integration with vendor software packages.
WEAKNESSES: ER/Studio is not free you have to pay for it. Ive found cheaper tools, but nothing as stable or broad-reaching as far as the tasks it covers.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We had a number of selection criteria that we considered when choosing ER/Studio as our data modeling tool, for instance Is it multiplatform? How stable is the company? Is it intuitive, flexible and easy to use? Is it stable? Does it support submodels? Does it intelligently generate a physical schema from a logical and vice versa? Does it come with several modifiable macros to do things like global additions, edits and deletes (which save hours and days of work)? Is its version control and security the best available? Does it have the ability to share data models across a large global organization? Does it provide a thorough audit trail (i.e., what was done when and by whom at the smallest level of detail/grain)?
DELIVERABLES: ER/Studio gives us our full data dictionary, both logical and physical. With a push of a button, we can print out a model diagram that allows us to communicate to both technical and nontechnical audiences, depending on the need. The tool also stores our enterprise model and all submodels from various projects across the organization. It generates DDL for our DBA development team and tracks and reports on changes for change managers.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Embarcadero has five-star sales and technical support. They routinely go above and beyond to assist us in our needs. I use their technical support email primarily for usage questions rather than to report issues, and they will go the extra mile to write up the answers for me when I need a custom macro created. They always respond promptly, thoroughly and clearly. Their technical support is like having a satellite team on your project which doesnt show up on your project budget!
DOCUMENTATION: The ER/Studio documentation is very specific and comes complete with how-to diagrams. It is very clear and easy to follow, even for someone who is very busy or very junior.
Embarcadero Technologies ER/Studio
100 California St., 12th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
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