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Sparx Enterprise Architect: The Swiss Army Knife of EA Tools? : Page 3

Looking for a Swiss Army Knife for your enterprise architecture toolbox? Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect could bring out your inner MacGyver.


A Plethora of Tutorials

While the Enterprise Architect interface is fairly intuitive, it offers so much functionality that there is still a bit of a learning curve to get the most of the tool, even if you are interested in only a narrow range of features. At the Sparx Systems resource page you will find product-specific online help tutorials covering features such as creating strategic models, diagram filters, BPEL, traceability and five other product features. On the same page you will also find some good tutorials on UML basics as well as an impressively large library of other Enterprise Architect resources.

If I Could Have Just One Enterprise Architecture Tool...

While Sparx Enterprise Architect suits some of my needs well, what I found most attractive was that it has a 30-day free trial edition that allowed me to use the tool extensively enough to make a true value judgment. There are many tools that may be superior, but I am not one of those who can recommend spending dollars based solely on a sales rep's assurance and a brochure. If you had to choose a single tool (which I do not recommend), Enterprise Architect can provide the functionality to support that choice, though some tasks may seem tedious if you are already familiar with using more specific applications. If you have tools already and are evaluating more tools to adopt, you can download your own trial edition.

No Leader in the Enterprise Architecture Tools Market

Allow me one final rant before I finish. With enterprise architecture adoption growing, the search for tools is becoming more difficult. In a less savvy forum the response to this phenomenon may be "Huh?" Normally when businesses start doing more of something it leads to an increase in the number and quality of supporting tools. It has become an almost formulaic evolution that begins with an explosion of options, which narrows down to a few dozen leaders as the early adopters kindly weed through the vaporware for us more patient types.

The product leaders will be a mixture of superior tools and tools with effective marketing; the extremely rare and desirable tool will be a stand out in both arenas. As the more conservative department heads begin approving purchase requests, three to five leaders emerge and begin acquiring the competition that didn't go belly up during the battle for dominance. This is generally a two to three year cycle, and enterprise architecture has been around a lot longer than that. So why aren't we all unanimous on which enterprise architecture tools should be on our short lists?

I believe it is because of the large number of frameworks labeled as "Enterprise Architecture" tools and the complexity of each of those frameworks (see Pitfalls on the Road to Enterprise Architecture Maturity for more thinking on this). This makes the scope too broad for a sufficient number of vendors to agree on what to compete over, and in application development hitting a moving target is hard. Consider how much harder it is if you don't know the shape of the target and all the while it is moving among other targets that are similar but different.

Rant over.

Scott Nelson plays the roles of development manager, architect, project manager, and portal evangelist on any given day, and blogs lessons learned at Head in the Web when they are not suitable for Developer.com or DevX.
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