Use Case Templates

Use cases and templates go together like peanut butter and jelly. No other analysis technique has become so associated with templates. Search the web and you’ll find dozens. Just don’t become a template zombie.

When you find a project team that is focused on producing a standard document rather than on considering the content of that document, then you are in the land of the template zombies.

Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies

Benefits and Dangers of Templates

©iStockphoto/Maksym YemelynovTemplates are like checklists. They help ensure you haven’t missed anything. Write something into each field of the template and all your bases are covered. Nothing missed.

The template’s comfortable consistency hides the danger: filling out the template gives a false sense of security. Each project is slightly different, but a template remains the same. We’re fooled into thinking that consistency means quality. When in fact, applying a use case template without thinking introduces its own set of problems. It compels use case writers to:

  • Include something that wasn’t needed just to fill in a section, making the requirements more difficult to read.
  • Skip an important piece of information because it wasn’t in the template (or throw up their hands and claim that use cases “don’t work”).
  • Force traditional declarative requirements into a use case format because they didn’t understand what a use case is.
  • Get hung up on form rather than content.

Use cases are not about changing the format of requirements – they are about changing the perspective. Rather than look inside-out (“What are all the the things the system must do?”), we look outside-in (“Who needs to use this system? Why do they need to? How will they use it?”). This results in better requirements that are easier to read, and ultimately, better systems.

The World’s Best Use Case Template

There isn’t one. Being successful with use cases doesn’t mean finding the perfect  template. So stop searching. Don’t be a template zombie. The best use case template is one that you aren’t afraid to change to best fit the situation.

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