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EA modeling tools communicate across disciplines

An IT consultant says Sparx's Enterprise Architect helped project communication from the architect and business analyst down to the technical implementation.

Many individuals would like to see modeling tools become the major means for communicating between business and development. A recent release from UML modeling tool vendor Sparx Systems seeks to further that cause. As well, the software adds modeling support target at IT operations to the modeling mix.

Integrating with the Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio, Sparx's Enterprise Architect 7.5 introduces editions aimed at the business community, software developers and systems/hardware designers. The software can generate code from UML behavioral and rule-based models, and it can generate BPEL from BPMN 1.1 models.

It includes profiles and plug-ins covering DoDAF, TOGAF and MODAF. The software supports a variety of UML profiles including one that addresses 'business motivation' modeling, an OMG-backed approach intended to meld software development with business objectives. The tool is as much a communications tool as it is a design tool, says one end user.

"This is full-team software. We use it for communications across a project. That includes business experts and subject area experts, from the architect and business analyst to the people responsible for technical implementation," said end-user Alex Jouravlev, founder, Business Abstraction, a consultancy. The idea is to organize the elements of a project into a continuous flow of artifacts, from the business requirements to the eventual IDE, indicated Jouravlev.

UML profiling

Among the UML profiles offered by Enterprise Architect is one that supports balanced corporate scorecarding, said Ben Constable, COO, Sparx Systems Pty. Ltd. The release also adds lazy loading for better performance of large SOA models.

"This helps - as SOA models can get pretty large. We can scale to handle huge models with hundreds of thousands of elements," said Constable. "We allow organizations to see the big picture of what they are doing using a standards-based approach," he continued.

And, modeling as a communication mechanism is important, Constable indicated.

With the modeler, you can "transfer abstract models into concrete artifacts such as WSDL, XML schemas, or BPEL," he said. "You can trace from one level to the next. The key is bridging disciplines in one central modeling development environment."

Finally, the tool allows a team to grapple with the basic nature of software development, suggests user Jouravlev. That is: No one size fits all.

"Every real-life project is different. No two are the same," said Jouravlev.

"That was my problem years ago with software. What we got with [Enterprise Architect] was the ability to customize the approach to every situation. I put this capability ahead of everything else."

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