REVIEWER: Ganesan Shankaranarayanan, assistant professor, Boston University School of Management.
BACKGROUND: Boston University is one of the leading private research and teaching institutions in the world. Its Information Systems Department focuses on understanding how both information and communication technologies affect organizations in terms of productivity and innovation and how to use this understanding to improve the design, implementation and management of information systems.
PLATFORMS: The PowerDesigner client runs on Windows, the back-end data repository can run on any platform.
PROBLEM SOLVED: In today’s increasingly complex technology-powered organizations, leaders need to know how to align business strategies and technology solutions to deliver customer value and drive organizational growth. To meet these demands, the Boston University (BU) School of Management created a dual major — the MS·MBA with their pioneering Systems Design and Data Management I think all instances of this should be lowercase, don’t you?course. BU uses Sybase’s PowerDesigner enterprise modeling and design solution to offer hands-on experience for students to learn how to translate business requirements into technology system specifications.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Systems Design and Data Management course is built around realistic case studies that require students to design business processes and the IT systems to support those processes using PowerDesigner. Students use PowerDesigner to develop a conceptual model of a new business process, transform that into a logical model and finally into a physical model – the IT system itself that will enable or support the business process. With this hands-on experience, students learn how to understand business processes and how to use modeling tools like PowerDesigner to align business and technology effectively in order to support business strategy and achieve business objectives.
STRENGTHS: PowerDesigner is easy to install and to use, and completely independent of any major software or database. It integrates business modeling, data modeling and object modeling so students can develop conceptual, logical and physical models across object-oriented and structured modeling paradigms, using the same tool. PowerDesigner was the only solution that met those requirements. The product’s features were also easy to use so students can focus more on the model itself and less on the tool.
WEAKNESSES: PowerDesigner offers many different modeling environments such as business process model, use-case model, data model and object-class model to mention only the key ones. The tool integrates (presumably using a common repository) these modeling environments so that modeling constructs/objects created in one modeling environment (say, business process) can be reused in other modeling environments (say, data model). This is a very powerful feature as a single IT/IS system is typically modeled using multiple, related models and it saves the modelers considerable time and promotes a superior understanding of the integrated IT/IS system. However, access to the common repository from within each modeling environment is not obvious, and this feature has a relatively steep learning curve. Hence, users, having modeled some constructs in one model (such as data elements in a flow in the business process model), “redo” the same construct in a different model (like designing the conceptual data model). This, while providing the flexibility to users, defeats the integration intended in PowerDesigner.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We chose PowerDesigner because of its ease of installation and use, as well as its open platform, database and language support. It was the only solution that met all or our necessary requirements to create this course.
DELIVERABLES: With Sybase PowerDesigner, students produce data models to support their business process models and track and manage business performance in real time. Our students confirm PowerDesigner's capabilities, creating different types of models including data flow diagrams, use case diagrams, entity-relationship diagrams and the physical data model. Using PowerDesigner, students can spend more time making sure the models are correct and less time writing SQL.[NO paragraph break here]Students were also quick to see the benefits of work-sharing across geographies. PowerDesigner allows work to be broken into pieces, assigned to available resources anywhere in the world and re-assembled to make a final product.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The vendor support, both pre- and post-implementation was excellent. Sybase is extremely prompt with providing the software (both the single-user version for me to get trained and the full version for the users) and setting up access to their licensing site for me to create/download the floating licenses I needed. They also provided support for me to install my floating license server. A very senior product expert was available for me, post-implementation, to answer questions, offer guidance and show me the best way to make use of the product in my course. The expert was also available to tutor me (using WebEx) on the product features. Further, the product expert was willing to (and did) make presentations directly to users on the product features and use.
DOCUMENTATION: The product came with complete online documentation. The documentation was easy to search and easy to understand. A user could run the product (deploying all of the basic and mid-level functionality) easily using just the documentation. I was able to learn some of the advanced features only by interacting (playing around) with PowerDesigner, besides obtaining guidance from the documentation.
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