Tag Archives: Analysis

The Five Orders of Ignorance

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

It’s not often you read a paper that has something unique and fresh to say about a topic, and expresses it in a clear and concise way.

Somehow, Phillip Armour’s The Five Orders of Ignorance had eluded me, until I found it referenced in another paper.

It really is an interesting point of view on software development.  You can read the paper here.

Armour’s central tenet is software is a mechanism for capturing knowledge. That is, (correct) software is the result of having […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

Use cases have become a core part of the requirements analyst’s arsenal.  Used well they can bring dramatic increases in customer satisfaction and a whole host of other subtle benefits to software development.

The use case itself is very simple in concept: describe the functionality of the system in terms of interactions between the system and its external interactors.  The focus of the use case is system usage,  from an external perspective.

Despite this apparent simplicity, requirements analysts frequently struggle to write […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

Rule 13: Say it with more than words

Use case descriptions are most commonly written in text format (albeit often a stylised, semi-formal style of writing). Text is a very effective method of describing the transactional behaviour of use cases – it’s readily understandable without special training; most engineers can produce it (although the ability to write basic prose does seem beyond the capability of many!); and it is flexible enough to deal with complex behaviours – for example, variable numbers […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

Rule 12: Avoid variations on a theme

A common affliction amongst novice use case modellers (particularly those from a development background) is the desire to fettle the use case model – to organise it, revise it, balance it; and generally make it look more like a design model.  Unfortunately, beyond a certain point this effort actually starts to degrade the utility and effectiveness of the model.  More and more effort is put into a model that becomes less and less useful […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

Rule 11 – Don’t abuse «include»

A use case contains all the steps (transactions) needed to describe how the actor (our stakeholder) achieves their goal (or doesn’t; depending on the particular conditions of the scenario). Therefore a use case is a stand-alone entity – it encapsulates all the behaviour necessary to describe all the possible scenarios connected to achieving a particular end result. That’s what makes use cases such a powerful analysis tool – they give the system’s requirements context.  Use […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

Rule 10:  The magical number seven (plus or minus two)

Psychologist George Miller, in his seminal 1956 paper "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information", identified a limit on the capacity of human working memory. He found that adults have the capability to hold between five and nine ‘chunks’ of information at any one time. A ‘chunk’ may be a number, letter, word or some other cohesive set of data.

What has this […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

Rule 9 – Build yourself a Data Dictionary

Transactions between the actors and the system typically involve the transfer of data.  This data has to be defined somewhere.  If you’ve built a Domain Model ( see Part 5 – here) most of the data will be identified there; but even then the class diagram is not always the most practical place to capture the sort of information you need to record.

Another way to capture this information […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

RULE 7: Describe ALL the transactions

A use case, as the name implies, describes the usage of the system from the point of view of some beneficiary (our Actor). It is NOT (as I seem to spend my whole life telling people) is just the system function, organised as some sort of graphical ‘sub-routine’. This means the use case description must include the expected behaviour of the actors as well as the expected behaviour of the system.

This can […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

RULE 5: Focus on goals, not behaviour

There is a subtle distinction between the functional behaviour of the system and the goals of the actors.   This can cause confusion: after all, the functional behaviour of the system must surely be the goal of the actor?
It is very common, then, for engineers to write use cases that define, and then describe, all the functions of the system.  It is very tempting to simply re-organise the software requirements into functional areas, each […]

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The Baker’s Dozen of Use Cases

Glennan Carnie

Technical Consultant at Feabhas Ltd
Glennan is an embedded systems and software engineer with over 20 years experience, mostly in high-integrity systems for the defence and aerospace industry.

He specialises in C++, UML, software modelling, Systems Engineering and process development.

Latest posts by Glennan Carnie (see all)

RULE 3: Never mix your Actors

The UML definition of an Actor is an external entity that interacts with the system under development. In other words: it’s a stakeholder.

Having analysed all your stakeholders (see Part 3 ) it’s tempting to stick them (no pun intended) as actors on a use case diagram and start defining use cases for each.

Each set of stakeholders (Users, Beneficiaries or Constrainers) has its own set of concerns, language and concepts:

Concerns.
Each stakeholder group has a different […]

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