Tuesday, Afternoon
The Art of Writing Use Cases
Convention Ctr – 211D
Rebecca Wirfs-Brock and John Schwartz, Wirfs-Brock Associates

Use cases describe the behavior of a software system from an external usage perspective. There is an art to writing them clearly. Written carefully, use cases convey key usage specifications and can be tied to other requirements. Written poorly, use cases are confusing and ambiguous. This tutorial presents examples of good and bad use case descriptions drawn from real projects, and practical techniques for writing three forms of descriptions: narratives, scenarios, and conversations. Narratives are high-level descriptions written from an external perspective. We show how to elaborate these high-level descriptions, choosing either a scenario form, which emphasizes sequence, or a conversation, which highlights interactions between a user and the system. Tips for naming use cases, describing policies, errors and exceptions, attaching other important information, and writing glossary entries are also presented. This is a hands-on tutorial. Attendees will practice writing, critically reading of, and revising use cases in various forms. After this tutorial, participants will be able to apply principles and writing techniques to their own projects, writing appropriate usage descriptions.

Presentation Format: Slides, lecture, short writing and reviewing exercises followed by comment and suggested solution(s).

Attendee Background: Students should be looking for practical ways to improve their writing. They should be familiar with writing and reading software requirements and usage descriptions. Since Use Cases are part of the Unified Modeling Language (UML), students could benefit from an introduction to object concepts. However, an object background is not a prerequisite!

Rebecca Wirfs-Brock is president of Wirfs-Brock Associates, a firm specializing in the transfer of object analysis and design expertise to organizations and individuals through training, mentoring, and consulting. She spent 17 years as a Software Engineer at Tektronix, leading the development of Color Smalltalk. She has written articles, lectured, and presented tutorials on object analysis, design, and management topics, and has been an innovator in object technology since 1984. Recently, she has authored use cases for a telecommunications framework and an online banking system. She practices what she teaches! Rebecca is co-inventor of the Responsibility-Driven Design method and co-author of the classic, “Designing Object-Oriented Software.”

John Schwartz, Vice President at Wirfs-Brock Associates, has devoted his career to specifying and building complex software systems. Before joining Wirfs-Brock Associates, John was Vice President of Information Technology at GST. There, he led the development of an object-oriented framework that integrated back office systems. John was a charter member of the initial OMG object task force, and pioneered the application of the Object Behavior Analysis method, while at ParcPlace. As an experienced analyst, software developer, consultant, and IT manager, John has lived in the trenches. He knows the problems people encounter when trying to convey requirements to a diverse audience and is constantly working on ways to improve technical communications.

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