Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Stefan Bernbo

Related Topics: IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud: Article

Strategies for Software Development Project Success – Part One of a Two-Part Series

Best Practices for Improving Project Success: The Importance of Synchronization

Unless you understood the specific needs of these two user groups when you were designing your application, you would risk creating a system that would not satisfy the requirements of either one.

Business use cases versus system use cases
Depending on the system in question, there may be a significant difference between business and system use cases. One depicts a user's business and the other a user's interaction with the system. However, the difference between these two types of use cases can become blurry. For example, in a software development business, the system IS the business. While you are developing and testing a specific system feature, it is easy to forget that the final user may not use the system the same way you do - or even have the same needs.

To understand the distinction between a business use case and a system use case, imagine that a software team has been charged with developing a software application that must perform equally well in different local environments around the globe. To ensure that the application meets these requirements, the team must comply with a set of minimum globalization rules.1 These rules are hard-coded in a set of specifications that cannot be modified at will. The development team needs to audit the code against these rules, and currently they must do this manually. A programmer (auditor) must open each source file and find any inconsistencies with the specified rules.

Here is an example of the business use case. It is one of the business use cases for reviewing some aspect of code quality, often a time consuming manual activity. For each source file in the workspace:

  1. Open the source file.
  2. Read the code line by line (note: requires deep coding knowledge).
  3. If you find a suspicious method, consult the Web page containing the rules (note: very time consuming).
  4. Resolve the problem by fixing the code, if possible (business use case for the developer).
    a. Alternative flow for the tester role: If you cannot fix the problem right away, document the finding in a Word document and submit it to the developer.
  5. Open the next source file and repeat the steps.
As you can see, this is a tedious process - some steps in the use case are manual and prone to user errors and therefore good candidates for automation to speed the process up. The focus of the business use case is the process with, or without any tools.

On the other hand the system use case focuses on the interactions of the user with the system - in our example a tool for automated validation of source code.

Example system use case

Precondition: Globalization rules are enabled in the code review feature of the IDE.

  1. Open the code review tool in the IDE.
    a. (Steps for opening the tool).
  2. Run code review.
    a. Main flow -- click on the button "Run."
    b. (List of alternative flows described in detail in a new section).
  3. Review the results of the automated review (findings).
  4. For each finding, resolve the finding:
    a. Main flow: Submit a defect.
    b. (List of alternative flows described in detail in a new section).
  5. If you cannot fix the code right away, submit a defect.
    a. (Steps for defect submission).
Often a system use case has a purpose of improving the business scenarios through the introduction of tools and automation that help improving the effectives of the user's business. A good system use case fits well in the user's business scenarios and use cases and improves them. The comparison of the two also provides an insight into the return of the investment (ROI) of the planned system.

The value of system use cases
Once you define the user's "as is" process and goals, you can specify what portion of the user's activities an automated system can supply. A short document with steps such as the ones described above would provide plenty of information to the reader on what the final product should look like, how it would help the customers with their business, and so forth -- even if this information is not explicitly spelled out.

Here are some obvious benefits of having a system use case for code reviews:

  • Even without having a line of code classified as "code review ready for testing," a tester can go ahead and create a test plan for the functionality described above.
  • In addition, at this point, a documentation person could go ahead and create and/or append the structure of the documentation for the code review.
  • The development manager could then optimize the development schedule, so that the first development build would satisfy at least the main flow of this use case.
Use cases accelerate the development project and engage all team members right at the beginning of the project. If you don't already focus your work around use cases, give them a try. The effort is well worth it.

Getting the right level of detail for system use cases
How much information should you include in each use case step?

My preference is to derive and group the system use cases around the business use cases and also group a number of user interactions under one group of steps. The group of steps explains the purpose of the step and is likely to remain unchanged if some detail in the implementation changes. This approach helps to make the document more readable, it connects the system use case with the business use case, and it allows the use case to be easily modified if the product implementation changes.

For example, the simple steps in our system use case above, "Run code review," convey a wealth of information to the careful reader, including:

  • Code review is integrated in the IDE.
  • Code review must be engaged, or "run."
  • Code review provides a list of findings about deviations from the set of validated standards.
  • Some of the findings have quick fixes.
  • Code review will have quick fixes.
3. Ensuring effective testing
Once the use cases are set in place and the team has agreed that they represent the right way to go, the use cases become the foundation for the rest of the plan. In fact, this is the only way to take advantage of the benefits they offer.

The engineering team builds a development plan that includes, at the very least, a list of components to be built and a timeframe for each of them. It is very important to create clear traceability between features needed for the main use cases and the components necessary for the features to work.

Identifying these core components and defining their use cases are crucial steps that allow early testing of the application functionality. If the core components are delivered early in the development cycle, then the tester can start writing test scripts for the basic set of rules and validate that the tool functions properly.

In our example, the system use case "Run code review" enabled the tester to make a test plan for this core functionality even before the code was written and also to create a set of manual test scripts for both the main flow and alternative options.

Types of testing
The simplest form of testing -- and a very effective one -- is to assemble a number of educated users to exercise various features of the application under test and report issues (findings, defects) to the code development team. The metrics for this form of validation are simple: The more users you have, the more defects you'll detect. Different user groups will use the tool in different ways and further improve the number of detected problems. However, there are some issues related to this. By the time the software is ready for user consumption, there may not be enough time to launch an extensive test program. Different users may be on different product builds. Even more important, depending entirely on human beings is very expensive and very unreliable.

More Stories By Goran Begic

Goran Begic is a Senior IT Specialist with IBM.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
Chris Matthieu is the President & CEO of Computes, inc. He brings 30 years of experience in development and launches of disruptive technologies to create new market opportunities as well as enhance enterprise product portfolios with emerging technologies. His most recent venture was Octoblu, a cross-protocol Internet of Things (IoT) mesh network platform, acquired by Citrix. Prior to co-founding Octoblu, Chris was founder of Nodester, an open-source Node.JS PaaS which was acquired by AppFog and ...
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...