Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Memories of IT - 1990 - IEW vs. IEF

1990, and the promise of CASE was huge...

We have two products, IEW and IEF, to choose between.

Memory and perception can be funny things, so when it comes to IEW (Information Engineering Workbench), any corrections from the reading public are especially welcome.

First off, I recall the vendor company'™s name was Knowledgeware. Its president or CEO was one Fran Tarkenton, indeed the famous NFL quarterback. I never did figure out what he really was to the company: was he a closet geek who really was involved in the product? Was this where he invested his NFL salary? Was he a figurehead? Comments welcome!

The other angle was that Knowledgeware was supposed to be very closely related to James Martin, but in what way I can't be sure. The implication was that if you were really doing Information Engineering, then Knowledgeware and IEW just had to be your choice.

So it surprised me no end that when I saw the product demonstrated, its functional modeling was based squarely on Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs). It might seem like an esoteric issue now, but if you had followed the methodology advancements of the 1980's, you would have seen that DFDs had featured strongly in Structured Analysis and Design, but they had fallen into disfavor with the rise of Information or Data-centric approaches using Data Modeling. In these approaches, DFDs with data flowing around and many Files were thought to lead to bad data design, silos and all that. And IEM (The methodology) did not use DFDs for functional modeling, it used a straight Functional Decomposition; but, you could probably have used DFDs without breaking any methodology rules.

On the other hand, there is IEF (Information Engineering Facility) from the software division of Texas Instruments. TI is really an engineering, hardware company, but they backed into selling a CASE tool because they had bought into Information Engineering for their own information systems and wanted a tool to support it, so they built one. IEF was automated IEM, for sure, but with a focus on the parts of the methodology that led to producing code; any diagrams that didn't lead to code were not automated. One of these was, in fact, DFDs, which IEM did use in a limited way for documenting current systems, but no more, so TI kept them out of IEF.

In the end, it came down to code generation; both tools generated code, but IEF was the most complete and straightforward; IEM was missing some parts and impressed ourt technical people less. So, IEF emerged the winner.

Next time: What was IEF, anyway?

2 comments:

Karen Lopez - www.infoadvisors.com said...

Great memories.

Fran founded a software company that merged with KW:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran_Tarkenton

I believe that both IEW and IEF used Event Diagramming, Process Dependency Diagrams and Action Diagrams (which were mostly text).

Also, IEF required a special three button optical mouse that used a special metallic grid mouse pad. People still don't believe me when I tell them I used an optical mouse in the 80s.

The real power (and pain) for both tools was their extensive use of matrices (like organizational responsibilities and CRUDs) to tie process to data.

David Wright said...

Wikipedia, of course...

A special mouse? Perhaps in an earlier version? I recall now that TI showed IEF to our development people a few years earlier, but they rejected it because its didn't generate PL/1(!).

I can't remember how IEW did Action Diagrams, but they were certainly the heart of IEF, with every 'line' selected from a list of valid options, especially in using the data as defined in the ERD. And it worked, which I will get to in a few posts.

About Me

Ontario, Canada
I have been an IT Business Analyst for 25 years, so I must have learned something. Also been on a lot of projects, which I have distilled into the book "Cascade": follow the link to the right to see more.