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That's what Use Cases are for, and are perfect for a technical writer to
Use cases are requirements expressed in action process steps performed
by the user and the system (as well as where they "touch" any ancillary
Use cases can be either "black box" (we don't care what the system is,
and don't describe what the system does inside, just the input and
output) or "white box" (we describe the internal system actions, as well
as describing the input and output). A use case includes actors (users
and systems of different types) and steps to a process using the system
under development and the requirements. These are usually done in
tables, which I can't do in plain text, but have used hyphens to show
the column breaks. For example:
Actor: General User
System: Our System
Premise: The general user will be able to login and retrieve their
messages in OurSystem.
Actor - Step - Action
General User - 1 - Logs in to OurSystem with GUID and password.
OurSystem - 2 - Receives GUID and Password.
OurSystem - 3 - Matches GUID and Password to user list. Is it a known
user? If Yes, proceed. If No, Stop, and send message to screen "Login
not allowed," and message to log file (logfile.txt) Unknown user, GUID,
General User - Login is accepted. Selects message area.
Anyway, that's a short version.
Here are some of the books that have used for writing good use cases,
all available through Amazon.
Use Case Driven Object Modeling with UML : A Practical Approach
The Rational Unified Process: An Introduction (2nd Edition)
Writing Effective Use Cases
Use Cases: Requirements in Context
The last two are *excellent* and very easy to follow. Additionally, when
the use cases are done, you can use them as a basis for user guides,
system guides, and so on.
Technical Writer/Reporting Analyst
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> -----Original Message-----
> techwr-l-bounces+diana -dot- ost=msmcorp -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+diana -dot- ost=msmcorp -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot-
com] On Behalf Of Beth Agnew
> Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 10:19 PM
> To: Ladonna Weeks
> Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com; Myers, Jim
> Subject: Re: Software requirements
> A good working process is requirements (what the product, any
> product, is supposed to do to meet the needs of the market)
> first, then specifications (details on how the product is
> going to match each requirement), and finally design, which
> is the manifestation of the requirements according to the
> specifications. Test cases, i.e., QA, usually ensure that the
> product meets specifications. I don't think you can
> adequately capture such design features as you're talking
> about without indeed getting into the details. The thing has
> to become very detailed and specific at some point. Leaving
> requirements up to the developers to interpret is fraught
> with problems. Much better to hammer out the specifications
> which detail the design, so that all the developers have to
> do is build it. If they run into an implementation problem,
> such that they cannot build to specification without changing
> the design, then there should be a process for working that
> solution through the requirements/specifications/design
> process. All kinds of insanity result when developers just
> change things as they go along.
> Making specifications afterward based on the designed product
> seems to me to go at things wrong way round, but a lot of
> companies do that to ensure their specifications are correct.
> Of course, you then get what the developers have decided
> you'll get. Hope you've at least got a business analyst and a
> systems analyst working with them on that.
> The marketing requirements in the example you gave would be
> that the customer needs to be able to pre-determine a time
> period during which a random reboot will occur.
> Specifications say that this can be any time period from 1 to
> 24 hours, with a default of a 5 hour period. Your #3, the
> 10:00 a.m. local time, actually conflicts with the first two.
> It is not random, nor is it a period, but a fixed point in
> time -- but perhaps it's related to something else and not
> the first two points.
> I'm a firm believer in detailed specifications. Very few
> products go wrong when the specifications are thorough,
> detailed, completed, and followed. It's when the specs and
> the design get out of sync that problems occur.
> Ladonna Weeks wrote:
> > One of my TW duties is to help with an internal web site
> that contains
> > requirements for our new product.The requirments are stated in very
> > general terms in order to leave opportunity for the developers to
> > design the product. Here are a few examples:
> > 1. It shall be possible to set a time period during which the
> > [product] will reboot at a random time during the set time period.
> > 2. The set time period shall be from 1 to 24 hours. Default
> shall be 5.
> > 3. Default time shall be 10:00 AM local time.
> > We are writing a test case for each requirement. However,
> we have come
> > to realize that during testing we need some kind of specifications
> > that describe the behavior of the product as it ends up
> being designed
> > so that something in the GUI or functionality doesn't get
> > changed after the customer has become accustomed to it. The person
> > writing the requirements has come up with the notion of including
> > design features after the fact which describe how the
> product works.
> > When we test, we would test against the requirements _and_
> the design features.
> > I am trying to figure out how to write these design
> features without
> > getting buried in details. Have any of you dealt with a
> similar problem?
> Beth Agnew
> Catch the Buzz: http://bethbuzz.blogspot.com STC Presentation
> archived at:
> Professor, Technical Communication
> Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology Toronto, ON
> 416.491.5050 x3133 http://www.tinyurl.com/83u5u
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