Data Modeling Tools Are Living In The Past: Your Best Bet

It’s been awhile since I actively used a data modeling tool as part of my development process (three years since I even had one installed). My experience had been that almost all of them could make perfectly acceptable models by reverse engineering an existing database, but none of them accelerated the development process in an agile environment. At best they slowed the process noticeably (~10%?).  Hopefully, in the last few years someone has taken the agile bull by the horns, and if they haven’t what do the agile experts recommend?

It’s been years since I last looked at the market leading ERD Design tools and in that time agile development methodologies have taken hold in even the stodgiest of environments. Certainly, data modeling tools have stepped into the modern era, right? Sadly, not even close.

After sitting through sales demos of both ERStudio from Embarcadero and the old standby Erwin from Computer Associates I was entirely unimpressed. They are still clearly wed to a waterfall style design process which favors documentation over delivery. Among the silliness: proprietary source control repositories, custom portal implementations, and development environments cluttered with buttons and elaborate layers of menus and properties windows. Looking for proof that it’s time for these tools to be simplified and streamlined? The vendor’s demo staff needed guidance from our team on how to access particular features (glad we downloaded that free trial!). Ugh.

It’s a big world though, perhaps there were tools out there that hadn’t made it to my radar. I shot a quick note to the king of agile data: Scott Ambler


Scott’s response back made it clear my assessment matched his…

There have been a number of times over the last few years when I’ve been asked what my favorite data modeling tool was. I’ve always felt a bit low-tech saying I haven’t found anything that works as well as a whiteboard. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one… 😉

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