Re: Use Cases, up front

Subject: Re: Use Cases, up front
From: Steven Brown <stevenabrown -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2003 06:56:49 -0800 (PST)

The company that I last worked for, and my current
employer, both use use cases and the Rational Unified
Process, so I've spent a great deal of time creating
and consuming use cases. Yes, they're a wonderful
tool...when written properly. Keeping in mind that
programmers and QA folks use use cases to do their
work, too, the best use cases provide a great deal of
detail, not just a set of simple, one line interaction
flows. What I like about them is that they can make
obscure tasks relatively understandable for non-SMEs.
(But let's not go down the SME road right now.) The
bottom line is that they require a great deal of
intensive analysis from the people who write them.
(But that's true of traditional specs, too.)

Use cases are followed (iteratively, to be accurate)
by UI prototypes, whether they're created in HTML,
Visio, Flash, or some other tool, which are again used
by programmers to actually create the application. In
theory, your documentation is created iteratively
along with the application itself, I've found that the
creation of documentation still followed a trational
"waterfall" process. I mean, you can't write detailed
procedures until you can see a relatively stable
version of the application. You can do a lot of
iterative planning and setting up of files and such,
but that's true in almost any environment, not just

If you find use cases to be an enticing tool, it's
going to take more than the technical writers asking
for them. I think you have to sell the value of RUP
across the organization, as its adoption spans many
many departments. People tend to be leary of moving
from traditional specs to use cases.

Steven Brown
Technical Writer

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