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Writing Effective Use Cases 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0201702255
ISBN-10: 0201702258
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Alistair Cockburn's Writing Effective Use Cases is an approachable, informative, and very intelligent treatment of an essential topic of software design. "Use cases" describe how "actors" interact with computer systems and are essential to software-modeling requirements. For anyone who designs software, this title offers some real insight into writing use cases that are clear and correct and lead to better and less costly software.

The focus of this text is on use cases that are written, as opposed to modeled in UML. This book may change your mind about the advantages of writing step-by-step descriptions of the way users (or actors) interact with systems. Besides being an exceptionally clear writer, the author has plenty to say about what works and what doesn't when it comes to creating use cases. There are several standout bits of expertise on display here, including excellent techniques for finding the right "scope" for use cases. (The book uses a color scheme in which blue indicates a sea-level use case that's just right, while higher-level use cases are white, and overly detailed ones are indigo. Cockburn also provides notational symbols to document these levels of detail within a design.)

This book contains numerous tips on the writing style for use cases and plenty of practical advice for managing projects that require a large number of use cases. One particular strength lies in the numerous actual use cases (many with impressive detail) that are borrowed from real-world projects, and demonstrate both good and bad practices. Even though the author expresses a preference for the format of use cases, he presents a variety of styles, including UML graphical versions. The explanation of how use cases fit into the rest of the software engineering process is especially good. The book concludes with several dozen concrete tips for writing better use cases.

Software engineering books often get bogged down in theory. Not so in Writing Effective Use Cases, a slender volume with a practical focus, a concise presentation style, and something truly valuable to say. This book will benefit most anyone who designs software for a living. --Richard Dragan

Topics covered:

  • Introduction to use cases
  • Requirements
  • Usage narratives
  • Actors and goals
  • Stakeholders
  • Graphical models for use cases
  • Scope for use cases (enterprise-level through nuts-and-bolts use cases)
  • Primary and supporting actors
  • Goal levels: user goals, summary level, and subfunctions
  • Preconditions, triggers, and guarantees
  • Main success scenarios
  • Extensions for describing failures

  • Formats for use cases (including fully dressed one- and two-column formats)
  • Use case templates for five common project types
  • Managing use cases for large projects
  • CRUD use cases
  • Business-process modeling
  • Missing requirements
  • Moving from use cases to user-interface design
  • Test cases
  • eXtreme Programming (XP) and use cases
  • Sample problem use cases
  • Tips for writing use cases
  • Use cases and UML diagrams
  • From the Back Cover

    Writing use cases as a means of capturing the behavioral requirements of software systems and business processes is a practice that is quickly gaining popularity. Use cases provide a beneficial means of project planning because they clearly show how people will ultimately use the system being designed. On the surface, use cases appear to be a straightforward and simple concept. Faced with the task of writing a set of use cases, however, practitioners must ask: "How exactly am I supposed to write use cases?" Because use cases are essentially prose essays, this question is not easily answered, and as a result, the task can become formidable.

    In Writing Effective Use Cases, object technology expert Alistair Cockburn presents an up-to-date, practical guide to use case writing. The author borrows from his extensive experience in this realm, and expands on the classic treatments of use cases to provide software developers with a "nuts-and-bolts" tutorial for writing use cases. The book thoroughly covers introductory, intermediate, and advanced concepts, and is, therefore, appropriate for all knowledge levels. Illustrative writing examples of both good and bad use cases reinforce the author's instructions. In addition, the book contains helpful learning exercises--with answers--to illuminate the most important points.

    Highlights of the book include:

    • A thorough discussion of the key elements of use cases--actors, stakeholders, design scope, scenarios, and more
    • A use case style guide with action steps and suggested formats
    • An extensive list of time-saving use case writing tips
    • A helpful presentation of use case templates, with commentary on when and where they should be employed
    • A proven methodology for taking advantage of use cases

    With this book as your guide, you will learn the essential elements of use case writing, improve your use case writing skills, and be well on your way to employing use cases effectively for your next development project.



    Product Details

    • Paperback: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (October 15, 2000)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0201702258
    • ISBN-13: 978-0201702255
    • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
    • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

    More About the Author

    Alistair Cockburn is a recognized expert on use cases. He is consulting fellow at Humans and Technology, where he is responsible for helping clients succeed with object-oriented projects. He has more than 20 years of experience leading projects in hardware and software development in insurance, retail, and e-commerce companies and in large organizations such as the Central Bank of Norway and IBM.

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: Paperback
    If there's one book that can be credited with popularizing use cases, this is it. Alistair Cockburn shares his applied knowledge in `Writing Effective Use Cases' and does so in a very digestible format. This is a handbook, a self-study guide - one full of real-world examples and exercises (with solutions even!) that any analyst or designer can relate to.
    Use cases are a form of documenting systems requirements and behavioral design specifications. Written well, they offer benefits to all who participate in the development life cycle. This includes analysts, designers, project managers, developers, testers and even end users. Mr. Cockburn's book takes the reader through the writing process, highlighting both good and bad examples. He makes no claims that any of these examples are perfect. And that is perhaps the greatest element of his book. Commit yourself to read through all the examples. By the time you're finished studying them, you will find your own skills in identifying what makes a `good' or `bad' use case have been sharply honed.
    Perhaps the one area this book does not explore in enough detail is the translation of documented use cases into user interface designs. Mr. Cockburn defers to `Software for Use' (another great book) for this. Even so, I would like to have seen some screen shots and comments about the user interfaces that were created from the examples provided. It would have helped tie the whole picture together. Translating use cases to highly usable interfaces is as much an art as it is a science. I believe this element of use-case driven development is best communicated in a live, face-to-face format. That's why organizations like Classic Systems offer workshops on this topic.
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    Comment 53 of 53 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: Paperback
    Finally! A book that corrects the numerous problems with use cases - or shall I say the mis use of use cases (no pun intended). Here are some common problems that this book will help you to avoid (there are many more, but these spring immediately to mind):
    PROBLEM: A horde of analysts descend and produce reams of paper that are little more than stick figures and ellipses. They are, well, of little value because they are devoid of any real information and too often confusing. The other side of this problem is an unmanageable number of these "use cases" are produced with inconsistent detail, or an overwhelming amount of detail crammed into a single use case. RESULT: Developers have no clear idea about how to proceed and much rework is done to get the needed information (or developers do proceed and create something not envisioned).
    PROBLEM: Use cases are considered to be the requirements specification. RESULT: Developers build something based solely on behavior, leaving out functions and features that customers want or need, and most likely not suited to requirements.
    PROBLEM: [Related to the preceding] Test plans and test cases for systems built upon the shaky foundation of bad use cases cannot be properly developed. RESULT: A hit-or-miss test cycle that is almost certainly destined to miss a large number of defects (functional and operational).
    Mr. Cockburn's approach to use cases will allow you to sidestep not only the more common problems associated with improper use cases, but hundreds more than will crop up unless the value and context of use cases in the development or project life cycle is understood.
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    Comment 99 of 104 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: Paperback
    This book is filled with both information and examples on how to build use cases to do what they absolutely have to do -- communicate the requirements for software behavior to all involved stakeholders. While Cockburn is perhaps too quick in de-emphasizing most aspects of visual modeling, he is very correct in stating that the model is a small part of the story of the software to be. Happily, Cockburn does not focus much on elicitation techniques (as many other books of its ilk do); frankly, elicitation is probably mostly unteachable and certainly a manner of personal style. Instead, the author focuses on how to distill elicited information into written material that will actually move the project forward.
    This book probably works very well for a novice. For the more experienced professional, it provides a wealth of ideas to return to. While there are a few bits (the cloud-kite-box indicator scheme comes to mind) that are probably not bound to make an appearance in the average analyst's repertoire, it is hard to imagine anyone dealing in problem domain engineering that wouldn't find considerable value here. Good books have been written on the subject, including ones by Armour and Miller, Kulak, and Conallen. While they might provide valuable context, the Cockburn manual easily stands on its own.
    Comment 39 of 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: Paperback
    My background is not software engineering - it's service delivery and process development. I got this book on a strong recommendation from my mentor because one of my techniques, information mapping, has some gaps when it comes to portraying processes. I had heard of use cases before getting the book, but paid little attention to them.
    Mr. Cockburn gives one of the most sensible, logical approaches to capturing, validating and modeling requirements I have ever come across. My initial concern that this book was focused on software requirements was assuaged by the numerous case studies that address processes and policies. This is the heart of what I do, and the book gave complete coverage of it. Of course software engineering-specific material is also addressed since this discipline has the biggest audience.
    The sections from which I got the most knowledge are: setting scope for the use cases and the way to use a hierarchy of use cases to depict increasing levels of detail, business process modeling, and the tips for writing use cases. This material pointed me in the right direction for resolving some of the shortcomings inherent in information mapping, and also gave me some fresh ideas on how to effectively and clearly develop processes that are traceable to requirements.
    One of the things I liked most about the book is its fast pace and reasonable page count. There is no fluff, and at approximately 300 pages it is an easy read for someone on a busy schedule.
    My personal opinion is that this book should be promoted to a much wider audience than software engineering - the approach and techniques will certainly serve the software engineering community well, but are also practices that business analysts, process engineers and others in IT can effectively employ. This one goes in that special section of by library that is reserved for books to which I frequently refer.
    Comment 50 of 52 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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