Use Cases: Effective Use in Business Analysis

There is a lot written about use cases and their application in business analysis. A good understanding of the business context is required to develop use cases which will deliver good value to a business customer.

This article discusses an approach to get the most of use cases and deliver the necessary solution to the business. The approach is applicable to many situations where changes to business processes and supporting business applications are made.

Where to Start?

Let’s consider that the project kick-off meeting has taken place, project scope is roughly understood, and the stakeholders are mainly identified. The objectives of your project manager are delivery time and project budget. Your task is to develop use cases, quickly and with good quality to satisfy those objectives.

To get your part of the work done, you need to understand the existing business context (business processes and available software components), then develop a Use Case Model outlining all use cases in the project scope (see diagram below), and finally develop each use case in greater detail. What is the best way to tackle this task?

Firstly, understand high level business requirements (business needs) and where they come from. They define project scope and solution scope. After that you will know the initial solution boundaries. Secondly, determine functional areas within the solution. These areas will be used to group use cases and business requirements down the track. It is useful to do this for your communication with stakeholders at different levels. Finally, use the understanding of the functional areas to allocate use cases to each functional area.

Use Case Model

What Are the Benefits?

Why should you do it this way? Because you end up with:

  • a holistic picture of the solution to be produced,
  • defined areas of the specific functionality required,
  • known links between the functional areas,
  • identified dependencies between use cases,
  • visible points of connection to external entities,
  • a good foundation for requirements prioritisation.

If you map this view to stakeholders and business processes they are involved in, you will have one extra benefit – the full map of changes (business processes, software and new skills) to be implemented!

Developing a Use Case Model

To move forward quickly, use the previously created diagram as a communication tool for all meetings with the key stakeholders and SMEs. They will quickly point out where mistakes are made, what should be corrected and why, and what the priorities for the determined uses cases are.

As a rule, you can get this job done in two iterations. To make it happen, study any external requirements (aka market rules) carefully to get a clear view of the real requirements that must be satisfied. Guide your stakeholders through these requirements and listen to their interpretations. See how these external requirements transform into internal business rules. Know the existing information environment of the company well.

Refine the diagram as you receive feedback and then get approval for the Use Case Model to move forward with the remainder of your assignment.