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Tuesday, 5 November – 13:30-17:00 Afternoon – Convention Ctr - Room 2B

31 Patterns for Writing Effective Use Cases

Alistair Cockburn
Humans and Technology, alistair.cockburn@acm.org
Steve Adolph
WSA Consulting Inc., steve@wsaconsulting.com
Paul Bramble
Emperative, Inc., pbram47077@aol.com

Use Cases are a wonderfully simple concept: describe a system's functional requirements by telling stories about how using it delivers value to its actors. Yet, for such a simple concept, good use cases can be hard to write. This tutorial is a chance for practiced use case writers to gather and ask the hard questions. How should we structure use cases? What should be the scope of a use case? What level of detail should a use case express? What expertise is required in the use case writing team? How do we provide different levels of detail for different people? How do we keep use case writers from infringing on design? Where do we put the UI design, data descriptions and all the other requirements?

Usually, the answers to these questions begin with the very unsatisfying "Well it depends...", or involves using a monolithic process that offers guidance, but creates mounds of unnecessary work.

This tutorial presents a pattern language that allows the attendees to tailor the answers to these questions to their own situation and development culture. It captures the knowledge and experience of successful use case developers in a way that it can be easily re-used by others, and serves as the basis of a vocabulary describing the properties of quality use cases.

Attendee background

Attendees must have written some use cases and be familiar with basic use case concepts.


The tutorial is structured as a lecture with slides, and an open question-and-answer session. The lecture introduces a set of patterns designed to help the attendees evaluate existing use cases as well as write better ones. The open question-and-answer section allows the attendees to ask questions currently plaguing them at work, and even trade answers and experiences amongst themselves.


Alistair Cockburn is a highly regarded instructor and is known as one of the premier experts on use cases. His book "Writing Effective Use Cases" set the standard in the area and was nominated for Software Development's Jolt book award in 2001. Alistair has taught use case writing since 1994, and has also acted as consultant on project management, object-oriented design, and methodology to the Central Bank of Norway, the IBM Consulting Group, and the First Rand Bank of South Africa. Materials that support his workshops can be found at http://members.aol.com/acockburn, http://crystalmethodologies.org and http://usecases.org.

Steve Adolph is a senior consultant with WSA Consulting Inc. where he specializes in software process improvement. He has seventeen years of industrial experience developing and managing software development projects in the telecommunications, railway signaling, and graphic arts industry. An exciting and enthusiastic speaker, Mr. Adolph has spoken at numerous seminars and workshops on the topics of software project management object-oriented analysis and design, and patterns. He is co-author of the forthcoming book "Patterns for Effective Use Cases".

Paul Bramble is a Senior Software Engineer with Emperative, Inc., and specializes in Object-Oriented Software Development. He has been developing software in the telecommunication, avionics and computer manufacturing industries for over 20 years. He has been using, researching, and writing about use cases since 1994. He led a workshop on "Use Case Patterns" at OOPSLA 98, and is co-author of the forthcoming book "Patterns for Effective Use Cases".