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Design for Success
Design and modeling tools can start your enterprise applications off on the right path—and keep them there. These two case studies show you how.
by Edmund X. DeJesus

Posted October 15, 2003

The old days of application design are gone—and good riddance. No longer do developers have to keep a wrinkled, faded, hand-drawn diagram taped to the wall of their cube to guide them. In fashioning today's powerful-but-nimble enterprise applications, the design isn't a sacred relic, but a living, changing, and potent ally.

What makes an application design useful are the tools that support it. These tools aren't just for drawing pretty pictures. Modern design and modeling tools can generate code automatically, take code and reverse-design the module, create database tables with supporting links and logic, and provide consistency that will simplify development, testing, and maintenance for years to come.

Here are two case studies that demonstrate how using the right design tools can save time and effort—the first at a university; the second, at a business intelligence provider.

School of Design
Minneapolis-based Capella University is an online accredited university offering a variety of graduate programs in five schools. Like most modern universities, it embodies everything that any good business enterprise does. It has to support its customers and staff, pay the bills, comply with government regulations, provide lots of information to lots of different types of users, and do this all swiftly, simply, and economically.

Capella's computer systems include student information, customer relations management (CRM), general ledger, document management, and financial aid. As you can imagine, these systems require massive amounts of data that is constantly being generated, acquired, stored, accessed, integrated, sorted, queried, investigated, and published. Supporting their data warehouses and main databases is the ER/Studio design and modeling tool from San Francisco-based Embarcadero Technologies.

"We selected our current tools in the first quarter of 2003," says Steve Elkins, manager of business intelligence for Capella. At that time, many of the designers were more familiar with a different design tool. However, they were dismayed by the unstable repository in that tool's latest upgrade. "People kept losing work when the repository got corrupted, requiring us to redo the work, roll back to previous levels, or restore earlier versions," says Elkins.

Some of the developers in business systems had been using ER/Studio and liked it. The designers adopted ER/Studio and haven't looked back. Users found that ER/Studio was sufficiently similar to tools they had experience with, so there was practically no learning curve. A one-hour phone session got everyone up to speed on ER/Studio.

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