Joint Requirements Planning Technique: Use Case Workshops

Conventional techniques like observation and interviews typically take significant time to organize. Joint Requirements Planning techniques on the other hand, have the added advantage of saving time because they involve bringing system owners, analysts, users, designers and builders together to identify problems, define requirements and analyse within a Joint Application Development framework. These workshops can run for 3-5 days with the analyst playing the role of a facilitator.

Requirements are not always specific and are usually prone to change. Business analysts utilize use cases to define requirements more clearly for stakeholder communication and system development. It is important to note that use cases by themselves cannot resolve ambiguous or incomplete requirements but they do help to identify what is missing in the big picture.

Why Organize Use Case Workshops?

  • Since workshops include different stakeholders like users and management staff, they help to build a stronger sense of ownership among the team when compared to other techniques.
  • Workshops reduce the amount of time required to gather system requirements since issues and consensus can be arrived at without going back and forth between one stakeholder interview and another.
  • Workshops are a great way of bringing together different stakeholders and completing requirements elicitation within a short time span. They are especially useful when you are working on a complex project and are spending a lot of time sending queries back and forth.

Now, let us look at some of the important activities involved in Use Case Modelling Workshops. 

1. Deciding on Roles and Responsibilities

The right mix of stakeholders should be identified otherwise you risk wasting time sorting out differences in opinion instead of getting the work done. Also, keep the number of people to a manageable size so that getting them to agree on a particular viewpoint does not become challenging.

You should also identify subject matter experts who can give the last word in case a functional clarification is required. For example, if you are working on a Basel III implementation project, it is a good idea to have a banking expert in the workshop who can guide decision-making.

Make sure you have a balanced mix of stakeholders so that different perspectives can be discussed and a credible conclusion arrived at. The facilitator of the workshop should be any team member who is conversant with requirements analysis and use case modelling – typically the BA. You could also create a matrix for assigning specific roles and responsibilities to attendees.

2. Finalizing Objectives

Once you have decided who is going to attend the workshop, finalize the objectives of the workshop. You may have ten points on the agenda but it's important to understand that it may not be possible to address all of them during the workshop. Focus on only those that can be addressed within the time frame you have. Also, communicate the objectives of the workshop to the attendees before the day so that they know what to expect and can prepare accordingly.

3. Modelling with Use Cases

In order to ask the right questions, you should understand how use cases work. Participants should also understand the use case modelling technique and how it can be used to express system behaviour. Focus on finding out who will use the proposed system and their intended interactions with it. Consider real users as well as the external systems that might interact with the proposed system.

The best way to identify actors and use cases is to conduct a use case modelling workshop at the beginning of the project. If you follow this structured approach, your workshop will definitely have a high probability of success.