It’s good to know about techniques. It’s better to learn how to use techniques. It’s best to know how to apply them. There are 50 techniques listed in the BABOK®. Each one can be applied differently to help you create a shared understanding, to structure your thinking for better elicitation, to show the results of your analysis in a visual story, and to create requirements. It’s a complex decision to choose techniques for your understanding and for your stakeholders. Deciding which one to use for your team is the art of business analysis. The BA artist has a wide pallet and must choose a technique for each project, each meeting, each conversation and interaction. Knowing how to apply the technique is like an artist knowing which brush to select and which color of paint to add to the canvas.
It’s good to know that there are different techniques to use; to understand that they are available. It’s better to understand what the technique is used for and what the rules are. It’s best to be able to apply the technique to elicit information from your stakeholder or to document requirements applying the technique. One of the challenges to understanding business analysis and the application is that it isn’t a prescriptive science. It always depends and it’s up to the analyst to choose the application.
It’s good to know that use cases have a name that describes the scope of the use case (verb/noun phrase), actors and, relationships that associate the actor with the use case. Use cases also have a pre- and post- condition that describes what is true before the use case begins and after it ends. They have a basic flow or happy path and alternate and exception paths. All of these are described in a detailed use case showing steps between an user and a system.
It’s better to know that this technique works well to understand the user interfaces and processes. Detailed use cases show the scope of an effort . Scope helps to estimate the analysis and development work needed for the solution. A use case is a bridge to test cases and uncovers specific business rules. Exceptions are most easily identified with thinking in a use case format. Use cases uncover steps where an error message is needed or a user could get stuck. Users have a clear understanding before development start of the expected user experience to get buy in early of the expected flow when you present information in a use case format. This technique creates the ultimate visibility for requirements!
It’s best to know that when you are working on a project with a user interface that a use case is a technique you can apply to understanding each piece of the customer journey. Detailing steps that the user takes and the system responses shows what is expected. This uncovers gaps in rules, processes and helps the users understand why you ask so many specific questions to ensure understanding. Detailed use cases are a great technique when designing a screen with any interaction and dynamic responses. It is the best way to uncover error messages needed or approvals. Thinking in use cases will ensure you uncover design needs you wouldn’t find using wire frames or process flow. Knowing how to apply the use case technique and how to use it is the best!
There is a lot of information available on use cases. See the BABOK® technique 10.47 for information. Also, Laura Brandenburg’s article How to Write a Use Case is a good reference as well for details on the pieces and parts of a use case.
Understanding what a technique is (good), when you would use it (better) and how you apply it (best) is important. Learning the art of business analysis takes time, practice and some failure. The exciting thing is that with some hands on practice the techniques will become second nature. You will be more valuable to your teams when you turn your ‘good’ into ‘better’ and your ‘better’ into your ‘BEST’!
Heather, A BA Without Borders