erwin Evolve Review

Enables us to present data and objects visually, in diagrams, and to make them available via the web


What is our primary use case?

We use EA Agile for enterprise architecture, which means that we want to catalog and keep track of all of the architectural pieces of our enterprise, including processes, applications, servers, and locations. We catalog 24 primitive/primary objects with the tool. The purpose is to provide the employees with a website, a navigable information source, of anything that makes up the enterprise. They can look up all of the servers in here. They can look up the applications, processes, security elements, and so forth. It's publishing information and sharing all the details — the architectural blueprints of our enterprise — with the entire corporation.

We have deployed it on Google Cloud Platform and onto VM. It's our own installation but it is not on-premises; it is in the cloud.

How has it helped my organization?

Two years ago, the solution was instrumental in the following way. We're in California so we're affected by the fires and mudslides that happen here. Our main data center was almost completely cut off for a couple of days. After we restored everything and we went through the disaster recovery scenario, a lot of stakeholders were surprised to find out that the systems or application that they care about were not under disaster recovery protection and they were wondering why. We were able to use the tool to show them how they could see what was under disaster recovery and why their things were not under disaster recovery, which was basically due to cost. Everybody then got excited about having more disaster recovery because when disaster happens you're more worried about it for the future.

We used the tool to work with the stakeholders of various departments to flesh out plans for disaster recovery, showing them what could be affected when something is broken or isn't working. It was a good visual aid, since we have all the data in there, to explain to the end-users and the stakeholders what we had to do to go forward. It wasn't really about saving money. It was about improving our business, but it was instrumental in helping regular businesspeople understand the IT world.

Overall, the solution provides output for users across our whole company. It brings visibility to every single employee. We're a software company and we have a lot of applications. There are people at the helpdesk and people in different departments, HR and so forth, who are responsible for a particular application. If one of those applications isn't working and someone calls the helpdesk, the helpdesk needs to know who they're supposed to route the ticket to. In the old days, we would keep all that information in a spreadsheet and we would circulate the spreadsheet, and we would update it once a year and it was always out of date.

With erwin, we keep track of that stuff in the database and they can very easily look it up. They can also see what they are responsible for themselves. An employee could then negotiate with their boss about being responsible for a server, for example, because it's more interesting to that employee. erwin keeps track of roles and responsibilities much better than anything else we've had before. That is one example of why it's valuable to everybody in the company.

The solution is critical to driving business change and transformation in our company in that it helps us make the argument for driving change. The application itself isn't going to drive any change; it's inert. Recently, one of the directives that our CIO has been interested in is moving applications that we have to the Google Cloud. One way I can help convince people to take their application and move it to the cloud is to show them how many other applications are moved to the cloud, and which ones have not been moved. This tool helps me visualize that for people, and I can very quickly pull up the diagram of all the applications that are in our data center in California. That can drive the conversation. erwin supports change and innovation but you have to use it properly.

What is most valuable?

One of the most valuable features is the website that sits on top of the database. There's a database of objects and how they are related, and you can make views and diagrams and visual elements out of that information on the website. The website is the part that is called Evolve and we use the Evolve Designer and publish the website out to our employees. They can click around and navigate and search, etc.

Evolve enables people to look at the processes in multiple ways. Unlike a documentation repository of processes, where nano-processes are written up in a textual form, this allows people to make use of the processes in ways that they hadn't been able to before. They can go to the tool and say, "For this process, what is the application that helps us run it?" Or they can ask the question in the opposite way, and say, "For this application, what processes are involved? Or what processes does this application help us do?" Then they can see all the various processes that are related to a particular application, or a particular department, or location, or project, etc.

We use the client/server version because it's more powerful. That's what we started with as the web-only version was not robust enough for us. They keep telling us that they're going to rid of the client and make it totally on the web, but I haven't seen that happen yet. I have a group of architects who do this kind of work and they're very accomplished and intelligent. We've learned how to use the more complicated client/server version. It suits us because there's more power to it and we know it. We don't need an easy-to-use, dumbed-down version because it's not that hard, and because we've used it for a long time. We have a stable group, people who have been here for the whole time that we've had it. The client/server version is perfectly fine, because it has the web module that sits on top and publishes the information. If it didn't have that, that would be terrible, but for years now it has had the Evolve piece on top of it. That lets the whole organization browse through the information quite easily.

Another tool that we use in the erwin suite is called Collector and it allows us to integrate our enterprise architecture repository with other repositories of information. For example, we have all of our employees' information in a cloud system called Workday, but we need to have employees' information in erwin so that we can relate employees to processes and employees to applications, for responsibility purposes. Every 24 hours, we use the Collector tool to synch all of the employee information into erwin, which is already then related to these other pieces. We don't have to maintain that information in erwin because it's maintained elsewhere. We do that not only with our employees, but with a bunch of process documents as well as with projects and equipment. So Collector really is an important tool in the suite, if you're going to manage a lot of objects. We have 15,000 objects in our database.

What needs improvement?

We tried their collaborative web modeling and we used it with a few people but we tend to not use that piece. We tend to collaborate with the people and then my team of architects draws up the diagram using the modeling tool. We then iterate through those. I would like to use it, but it was a little clunky when they first rolled it out.

Overall, it's more about the company having room for improvement. What they need to do is to consolidate more of their products. For example, I was just looking and I couldn't figure out what erwin DT is. It's on the website but it would help if they could put information together and make it more clear as to what products they have and how they work with other things.

I hear them talking in the support forums and, when I talk to the representative, they say they're going to do a bunch of stuff but it seems the progress is slow. The changes they need to make are to take their old, legacy product, which we use, and focus a lot on it so they can transform it into a modern cloud tool so that we have fewer little pieces to deal with.

They could also fix their security model. It's very confusing to get new people onto the tool and to make sure that your content isn't being exposed to the wrong people.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using the product for eight years. When we got it, it was owned by a different company which was acquired by erwin about three or four years ago.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I would give it a B+ on stability. Every once in a while, something happens with the search engine and we reboot it and it works. It's better than most but worse than some.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't really tested it for high scalability. The max number of people who will be on it in our company at one time is four or five dozen. I would think it would scale but I don't have any practical experience with it. In our company, about 20 to 30 percent of users touch the content of the solution as part of their daily roles. 

How are customer service and technical support?

They have a good support department but they are a little lax in the communication area. They always say, "Tell us what you think on the forum," but you ask a question on the forum and nobody responds for a month. Their interfacing with customers could be much better.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used a solution before erwin called ProForma, but that was a long time ago. It did not have a web front-end so it was really just a client-server piece. Because it didn't have the web front-end, the information we put in there was not very widely used at all.

We switched to erwin it had a web front-end and it was a little more robust. ProForma was easier to use out-of-the-box, but it was not as flexible as erwin. And, at the time that we bought it, the Evolve feature was new. That's what I was looking for. One of my business goals was to publish the enterprise architecture information to as large of an audience as possible, and to have it usable, because people are not going to read a 12-page document about that. But they are likely to do a quick search, look at a couple of web pages, and download that. erwin afforded us that capability and that's what we took advantage of.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was complex. The actual installation of the product is easy but the configuration of the product is complex. It's necessarily complex because it's a database and it has all these options that you can set. You need to create all of your database objects and you need to create your entire website on top of the database. It's not a turnkey solution where you take it out of the box and it works. It requires a lot of decisions and a lot of guidance.

It's a matter of once you get it up and running, what are you going to do with it? When you buy a new house and go to a home goods store, you can buy all of the stuff for your kitchen, the tools and the spatulas, etc. And then you can buy all the food. Now, how are you going to make a gourmet meal out of it? It takes you a long time to figure that out.

We also installed it a long time ago, so I want to emphasize that my experience is not current experience on the configuration.

Our deployment took about three months. We deployed it on Windows machine on-premise. At first, we deployed it on 10 people's laptops, and we deployed another server — the web front-end — for the rest of the employees. We had two servers with databases running on-premise on Windows. Only recently, in about the last two years, did we pick that whole thing up and move it to Google Cloud. We didn't really do any transformation. We just lifted and shifted it to the cloud.

For deployment and maintenance of the solution we need just one person, and the maintenance part is about a quarter of a person. Once you have it up and running, there's not too much maintenance, other than the data, just like any system. We have 10 people who are maintaining the data, but they only work on it probably 10 percent of the time. So one full-time employee is needed to update the data and a quarter to a half of an employee to maintain the technology.

What about the implementation team?

We had multiple consultants help us when we first put it in. When you buy it, for every $100 you're going to tack on another $20 to make it work. So about 20 percent of the cost of the solution, on top of buying the licenses, is the implementation itself, for consulting fees and training. It's not something that you can just click, install in five minutes, and you're going.

All the erwin consultants are great. They are very knowledgeable and have been with the company a long time. They are both technical and business-oriented. I've enjoyed working with erwin people, both the consultants and support people.

What was our ROI?

We've seen ROI with erwin. It's been successful. My boss is the CIO and he is quite pleased with it. In fact, a couple of years the CEO mentioned it in one of his newsletters. It's used widely and has acceptance within our company. It is a good way to see all the pieces within our company. ROI is a tricky thing. Did we make any money out of it? No. It's a cost. But it is part of the fabric of the company now and people know that they can see their systems in there and they can look at their data and can understand what's going on.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We pay yearly. We made our deal a long time ago, and it was for a perpetual user license, which essentially works out to three concurrent licenses. We can have as many people in the client as we want, as long as they're not using it at the same time. That works out fine for us because I have 10 people on my team and they don't go in there simultaneously. So all 11 of us can use the tool just fine but we only pay for three licenses. 

I believe we also pay a fixed maintenance cost for the Evolve part, after we bought it for a fixed price. But it's not a named license so anybody in the company can use it. If we grow to have more people, they can use it.

Collector, which is the integration API tool, is a third type of license. 

I estimate that we pay between $40,000 and $50,000 a year for the solution, not including the upfront costs to buy things the first time.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at several options. I don't remember the names but we compared the one we had, ProForma, and two others.

One of the products was really expensive and did everything and was amazing, but it was complex and expensive and you needed five people to operate it. The other one was a low-end, web-based diagramming tool.

What other advice do I have?

Start small. Start with the projects that you can get value out of it. Don't try to boil the ocean or to map the whole world. Say to yourself, "I'm creating a map," like Google does while they're driving around in their street-view cars. Figure out what your initial goal is and use the tool to gain that goal. If you have success there, go on to another one. It's an approach you could apply almost anywhere.

The biggest thing I've learned from using the solution is that it's really hard to document the data usage of your company. That's one area that we're pretty weak in. At least in our company, it's really hard to get a handle on all the data elements that people use — both customers and employees: How that data is used, where it is stored, what the liability is for it, and how long we have to keep it, etc. erwin has a data governance tool but, when I looked at that, it seemed we'd need a handful of people just to do that alone. Early on, I thought that I could get a handle on the data much more quickly than I have.

I would rate erwin at close to nine out of 10. It's not a 10 because it still has little janky things that are wrong with it. It's not intuitive and it takes a while to get value out of it. A 10 out of 10 is when you get value right away. Using erwin, if you work at it, you get a lot of value. For other people who are going into it, it might be that their bosses or their budgets aren't going to tolerate a month-long or even year-long ramp-up to value.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Google
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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