Sunday, 24 April 2016

Communication Heuristic: Use Cases

In the last year I've been working with different aspects of software development - many aspects related to Continuous Integration and Testing, but also other areas. Part of this work has involved developing new ideas to test, reflect on and potentially spread. A common challenge I've had from a number of colleagues when I'm talking about an idea or concept is:

"Can you give me or describe it in a use case?"

People want to relate to the idea. Sometimes a user story is really meant, but that doesn't matter. The real power here is the invitation to a discussion and dialogue about the topic, concept, way of working, product, etc. It's a way of saying. "let me understand your idea in use".

The use case doesn't necessarily describe the entirety of the idea but it starts the discussion - at least from one angle.

It's not always easy to do either - because sometimes it generates discussions in unexpected areas. This might be because people interpret the need differently. Or they've framed the problem differently. But that is good, and indeed useful, to generate such a discussion. It helps weed out misunderstanding.

When people (and groups) have worked with (or thought about) the idea then they will naturally develop new ideas about it or generate new questions. Some of this is testing the idea or concept, sometimes it's information gathering and sometimes it's clarification. Usually the testing of the idea explores ways that it could be misunderstood or produce unwanted results.

This is a very useful tool not only for product development but communication in general. It is common to use this in product specification and requirement capture, but it's also very useful in concept/idea discussion.

It is a heuristic approach to communication.

Does this all seem abstract? I used this heuristic recently to discover that I didn't have a common understanding - at least via use case - for the usage of the word "checking".

Potentially Related Posts
The Conway Heuristic
Testing. What was the question?
Framing: Some Decision and Analysis Frames in Testing
Thoughts around the label "Checking"