Architecting A Solution


Susan Martin is a senior vice president at Doreen Evans Associates (DEA), a Boston-based consulting firm that focuses on business area analysis, process improvement and systems requirements analysis. The company has used System Architect for more than 10 years. Martin can be reached at (617) 482-4444, smartin@doreenevans.com

Telelogic&'s System Architect is positioned as an enterprise architecture and business process management solution. It is used by organizations to design, visualize and analyze models and architectures.

System Architect supports business process modeling such as IDEF, BPMN and process maps, including UML models, which are used in cases for code generation and round-trip engineering. In addition, the tool supports structured analysis, conceptual, logical and physical data modeling, along with schema generation and DoDAF architecture products.

Tools that only focus on one aspect of modeling sometimes have deeper functionality in that area—so DEA often combines them with System Architect to develop a solution. For example, Embarcadero&'s ER/Studio product has sophisticated data modeling capabilities, but as soon as consultants need to cross a boundary, System Architect can enhance results by providing UML models. Consultants can build class diagrams in UML and convert persistent classes to an ER model or vice versa. Consultants also can link a business process to the system functions to automate it.

Using System Architect to draw diagrams is relatively straightforward. The latest release adds the ability to layer symbols and bring them forward or backward. Another feature is the new analytics capability, which allows developers to write Visual Basic scripts to perform searches that find whether a symbol has a related definition. The Analytics engine processes diagrams and generates results with an icon next to any symbol that has no relationships. This function allows consultants to see what is in the symbol&'s definition without actually having to open that definition.

Besides a nice drawing capability, System Architect provides a robust repository where consultants can store definitions and build relationships from one definition to another. A new feature that lets consultants normalize the underlying database sets up System Architect so that it will work with reporting packages such as Crystal Reports. For those who write Visual Basic scripts to pull out information and format it into deliverables, having databases normalized is a tremendous help.

One of System Architect&'s strongest features has always been its extensibility. The ease with which consultants can make these changes and the fact that they carry forward into new releases makes System Architect an invaluable asset.

The latest release of this product requires that developers perform a conversion on existing encyclopedias to support its normalization capability and to add history tracking. DEA consultants converted several large project encyclopedias that had been customized, and everything went quickly and smoothly.

The new integration with Telelogic&'s DOORS, for example, has taken a big step forward with the current release. System Architect now shows consultants which definitions or diagram symbols have been linked to requirements in DOORS. Consultants also can open System Architect definitions from DOORS, and vice versa, which lets users specify the properties to bring over. However, consultants still are performing some redundant steps. For example, all links to requirements gathering from System Architect's artifacts must be made in the DOORS tool. However, Telelogic recognizes that architecture products and text requirements are inextricably linked and is working to make that linkage easier.

Telelogic is still formalizing what consultants will need, such as support IDs and passwords, but the company has remained helpful and quick to respond. With the new release, Telelogic has introduced a new licensing paradigm that is probably the right direction for the company to go in, although it was an additional hurdle for longtime users. The online help is decent but occasionally catches DEA consultants by surprise by not including information that was placed in the PDF manuals in the product&'s installation CDs.