I Feel Like Alice Down a Rabbit’s Hole
Recently I used a data modeling tool called TOAD to reverse engineer a SQL application. The basic idea is that you can take an application, load it into the tool and magically you can generate a report including a visual diagram showing the layout of the application (where data comes from, what it links to — that sort of thing). This is really handy because normally it would take the original programmer “knowing” or days and days of searching through code to find the information.
In TOAD if you click on one of the tables in the diagram it takes you to a report showing you all the information you’d ever need to know (and some you could care less about). Really cool.
Even cooler is the fact that using TOAD you can write in stuff you need and it will generate the SQL (structured query language) code for you — programming in other words.
The reason I feel a bit like Alice falling through the rabbit hole is because there are a ton of these tools out there. I stumbled upon TOAD (which is owned by Dell Computers), but there are tons of these tools. Some are in the thousands of dollars and support big companies with big staffs. Some are free or pretty cheap. You can get a free, albeit limited, version of TOAD.
Computer departments use these to help in development, but they can be really valuable business tools — if you have the right information that isn’t “all technical in your face” — and some of the tools can generate business type reports which will let management make intelligent decisions based on the information they glean from these reports.
My confusion of the moment is finding the right tool for business users — one that creates a web site that lets them move around the information they need without being overwhelmed. I guess I better get back to my analysis!