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22

Designer/2000

Introduction

Designer/2000 is a revolutionary second-generation client/server tool for developing and protyping enterprise-wide information systems solutions. As software developers of enterprise-wide information solutions, the techniques and technologies to perform these tasks are constantly changing. As soon as one promising solution to providing rapid development of information systems solutions appears and accumulates a following, the technology and tools seem to change almost overnight. As professional developers, we are constantly being asked to change methods, tools, and technologies when confronted with a new solution to developing and maintaining enterprise information systems.

Although the profession of designing and deploying information systems is in a state of constant change, we are often reminded that our customers are in need of solutions. Whether our customers dwell in corner offices and have personalized parking spaces or process payroll registers, or perform data entry for the majority of the day, all of their efforts contribute to the performance, progress, and success of the company. Strangely enough, those in corner offices often have their information system needs put ahead of others, for whatever reason.

Designing, developing, and implementing the solutions needed by these groups or individuals is often a task not often completed by information system departments. Often, the solution is implemented too late to be effective. Internal or external changes may have changed the flow or importance of information since the initiation of the project. Other times, what the customer needed is not exactly what was delivered. And, at other times, we as professionals fail to consider how a solution developed for one group will impact another related group or division. All these aspects are of dire importance when developing information system solutions.

Successful information systems often share common properties. These properties can be defined as

  1. Rapid Application Development. Most business' climates change at least once a year. Responding to those quickly changing environments often requires utilizing tools that assist in the rapid development of information systems. A federal tax package program is able to process your check book register, dial into your broker's computer and access your stock portfolio, dial your mortgage holder and gather mortgage interest payments, and gather additional related tax information at the push of a button. By the time It automatically prepares your 1040, the information would be useless if just released it for the tax year 1985. Information systems must provide systems in a punctual manner to be effective.


  2. Flexibility. As mentioned previously, business climates are in a constant state of fluctuation. Too many times, the scope of the project changes from week to week, depending on the needs of the customer. Any tool used to develop information systems must also be able to change as the complexity and/or scope of the project changes. Internal as well as external business forces may require radical changes to a project already in a development cycle.


  3. Dependable. As simple or complex as the information system becomes, it must work and perform as the customer expects. During the design of the system, the customer should be involved in how the system will interact with the end user. Users should know what to expect from the system once implemented.


  4. End-user driven. This involves getting the user involved as much as possible in the development and implementation of an information system. This may even involve divisional, or possibly corporate management involvement in the design of the system. Any divisions or department even slightly effected in the implementation of the information system should also be included in the development cycle.


Although successful information systems often contain common attributes, the approaches to attain the end results have been changing radically throughout the past several years. New approaches are being developed, and old tried and true approaches are still being utilized because of their past successes. While no single approach is suitable for every situation, Designer/2000's objective is to support a wide range of approaches in delivering information systems. It is the responsibility of the developers to match the proper approach with the need of each project. Let's discuss each approach tightly integrated into Designer/2000, and when you should use each of the four approaches.

Business Process Reengeenering (BPR)

It's the 1990s. Businesses are down sizing, integrating, merging, and expanding...all seemingly in a single step. This often leads to smaller departments, yet increased visibility and responsibility within the enterprise. At the other end of the spectrum, small businesses can grow from two employees to several hundred within a very short amount of time.

Both of the above situations may need to investigate Business Process Reengineering, or BPR in developing an information system. BPR often starts with the notion that something is wrong with the integration of the enterprise. This could be caused by downsizing, or rapid growth, as described above.

This approach often involves integrating multiple departments, each with complex information systems needs. Understanding the overall integration of the enterprise is often revealed when BPR is utilized. While BPR may have some resemblance with more traditional approaches, this methodology incorporates an emphasis on redesign of processes within the enterprise, and how those processes interact with each other.

Once the diagnosis has been completed, you must act upon that diagnosis. Knowing that you have a cold based on a runny nose, coughing and congestion does nothing to help you until you actually do something, like take some medication. Once the processes have (possibly) been redesigned, the process model is of little significance unless acted upon. To achieve a successful implementation using BPR, the redesigned processes and procedures must be implemented. New procedures may be required, or old ones changed radically, as well as an information system to support those new procedures and processes.

BRP utilizes the following portions of Designer/200:

  1. Process Modeller. The Process Modeller is used to capture how activities flow through an enterprise. A unique ability of the Process Modeller is the ability to use multimedia in presenting this information. For example, you can attach an icon of a dollar sign to represent a revenue generating processes. You can even attach sound and multimedia clips to strengthen the concept of how processes integrate, and how information flows through the enterprise. Another ability of the Process Modeller is it's capability to capture process time requirements and turn around time, and it's capability to deal with staffing and expenditure requirements. This critical information can even be exported to popular spreadsheet programs for further analysis. The Process Modeller, showing flow of information through a sample application, is shown in Figure 22.1.



Figure 22.1. The Process Modeller in action, displaying the flow of information through a single department.

  1. System Modeller. The System Modeller, comprised of the Entity Relationship Diagrammer, Function Hierarchy Diagrammer, and the Dataflow Diagrammer, is the next step in implementing a BPR information system solution. During this stage of the process, you enter the analysis phase, where relationships are mapped and additional details are added. The Function Hierarchy Diagrammer uses the information from the Process Modeller to view processes as functions, showing their organization via a hierarchy diagram. The Dataflow Diagrammer shows how data flows within each process, possibly giving a more visual and concise representation of the model.


  2. System Designer. The System Designer encompasses the Data Diagrammer, Module Logic Navigator, Module Data Diagrammer, Preferences Diagrammer, and Module Structure Diagrammer. During use of these tools, the processes are brought into more detail. The Data Diagrammer gives you an initial data base design that can be further polished as necessary. The Preferences Navigator is used to initiate programming standards. This ensures that the applications generated will have a consistent user interface and processing style.


  3. Generators. The Server Generator, Forms Generator, and Reports Generator comprise the final step in implementing a BPR information systems. The Server Generator produces SQL commands that create the server tables. The Forms Generator creates a fully functional application, complete with insert, update, delete, and query functionality. The Report Generator generates reporting applications. All the above are combined to create a fully functional, client/server application.



Business Process Reengineering takes a lot of involvement from management within each effected process. Be aware that with the involvement of numerous separate processes, you must juggle personalities, conflicts, and differences within each department or division.

Information Engineering

"He who controls the data controls the world." Although not entirely true, that is the concept behind information engineering. This approach to information systems development considers data as one of the most valuable resources of an enterprise. By analysis of information, and how that information impacts the divisions within the enterprise, future plans to implement information systems can be derived. The steps and processes utilized within Designer/2000 to implement an Information Engineering approach to an information system are as follows:

  1. System Modeller. The suite of tools within the System Modeller (Entity Relationship Diagrammer, Function Hierarchy Diagrammer, and Data Flow Diagrammer) can prepare stand alone business models. The Entity Relationship Diagrammer (ERD) lies at the center in deployment of an Information Engineering information system. The ERD shows the important data elements, and how they are associated with one another.


  2. Systems Designer. The tools within the Systems Designer (Data Diagrammer, Module Logic Navigator, Module Data Diagrammer, Preference Navigator, and Module Structure Diagrammer) are then used to refine, cultivate, and enrich the findings from the System Modeller. The Application Design Wizard helps in the creation of modules from your defined business functions. At a later step, you can use the Module Structure Diagrammer to refine the relationships between the models.


  3. Generators. The Server Generator, Forms Generator, and Reports Generator are the final step. The Server Generator produces SQL commands that create the server tables. The Forms Generator creates a fully functional application, complete with insert, update, delete, and query functionality. The Report Generator generates reporting applications.


Rapid Application Development

As you can derive from the name, Rapid Application Development (RAD) attempts to provide quick, useful, and effective information system. Through use of specialized tools, developers can quickly prototype and generate entire applications. In this approach, the end user is very aware of what is needed for a successful information system. Other than verifying what the user is requesting, is what will be delivered and the impact, or lack of impact, on other divisions or departments. Delivering a working application is not impossible. Using Designer/2000, developers can quickly prototype an information system, and deliver a working application in a relatively short amount of time. The steps and processes utilized within Designer/2000 to implement an RAD approach to an information system are as follows:

  1. Systems Designer. The tools within the Systems Designer (Data Diagrammer, Module Logic Navigator, Module Data Diagrammer, Preference Navigator, and Module Structure Diagrammer) are used to define, cultivate, and verify information gathered from the end user. Use the Data Diagrammer to design the layout of your databases, and how the information should behave with an application. You can then use the Module Structure Diagrammer to form the links between your modules. The Preferences Navigator is used to initiate programming standards. This ensures that the application to be generated will have a consistent user interface and processing methodology.


  2. Generators. The Server Generator, Forms Generator, and Reports Generator are the second and final step. As you can see, only two steps are involved in using the RAD approach to developing information systems. The Server Generator produces SQL commands that create the server tables. The Forms Generator creates fully functional applications, complete with insert, update, delete, and query functionality. The Report Generator generates reporting applications.



The RAD approach to implementing an information system is best used when the end user is well aware of what is needed, and when the scope of the project is not likely to fluctuate to a great degree. Another sign to using the RAD approach is that the information system will not greatly effect, either directly or indirectly, the operation of other divisions or departments.

Legacy Led Development

In using the Legacy Led approach, an existing system is being replaced, upgraded, or added to. As the enterprise grows, expands, and possibly broadens it's business horizon, information systems already in place may outlive their usefulness. If a previous analysis of the process is available, you are one step ahead of the process. This should allow analysis of how the new additions will impact the system, or what processes the replacement must perform. If the system was developed using the predecessor to Designer/2000, Oracle CASE, its design will be readily available to Designer/2000.

Using the Legacy Led Development approach, existing processes are reverse engineered into Designer/2000. These definitions are stored in the Designer/2000 Repository, where they are available as the central source of redesign. The processes utilized within Designer/2000 to implement a Legacy Led Development approach to an information system are as follows:

  1. Systems Designer. The tools within the Systems Designer (Data Diagrammer, Module Logic Navigator, Module Data Diagrammer, Preference Navigator, and Module Structure Diagrammer) are used once the existing definitions have been reverse engineered into the Repository. Fields, columns, and even column characteristics can then be modified through use of the Data Diagrammer. You can then use the Module Data Diagrammer to refine the definitions.


  2. Generators. The Server Generator, Forms Generator, and Reports Generator are the final step. As with all final steps, these Designer/2000 tools produce the applicable server code, forms, and reports for the information system.


Summary

With Design/2000's capability to support multiple approaches to developing information systems, its common repository, entity reusability, and its consistency of application development, Designer/2000 is a tool that every professional system developer can utilize.

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