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T29: Writing Effective Use Cases for Projects Agile and Otherwise

T29: Writing Effective Use Cases for Projects Agile and Otherwise

Monday, Oct 23, from 13:30 to 17:00, C123

This tutorial shows how to write use cases that are short, effective and elegant, based on the award-winning book recognized as the reference standard on use cases. A good use case has an main success scenario that is three to nine steps long, plus scenario extensions that cover situations that may show up along the way. What makes a good use case special is the understanding the writer has of the scope of action in every step, the use of goal-oriented verbs in each sentence, alertness to the level of the goal in each step, clear movement of information and responsibility across actors in each step, and a story line that ties these steps to a goal of the primary user. When these notions are applied, even complex use cases become short and simple enough for lay people to understand and critique. This tutorial covers the critical but often unstated ground rules about scope, goal level, and actors. It then covers how to collect them and simplify the use cases. Time will be left for discussion about interesting problems the attendees have, and the application of use cases to agile and incremental development projects.

Intermediate:  People (technical leads, project managers, line managers) having to lead single- or multi-project programs.

Goals: To simplify the exposition of effective use cases so that people can actually write them, to expose the critical concepts that allow effective use cases to be written, and to answer interesting questions the attendees might have.

Format: Lecture plus exercise

Alistair Cockburn, Humans and Technology: Dr. Cockburn helped write both the Agile Software Development Manifesto and its addendum, the Declaration of Interdependence, and the award-winning book "Agile Software Development". He is also known as the author of the definitive work on use cases ("Writing Effective Use Cases"), as the creator of the Crystal family of methodologies; and for the management strategies he has collected from projects around the world. His philosophy is: "Computers must support the way in which people naturally and comfortably work. This is needed both for personal job satisfaction and for corporate survival." Many of his materials are online at

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