REVIEW - Patterns for Effective Use Cases


Patterns for Effective Use Cases


Steve Adolph, Paul Bramble, Alistair Cockburn, Andy Pols



Addison-Wesley Professional (2003)




Lawrence Dack


April 2004



The aim of this book is to provide software developers with "a source of objective criteria by which to judge quality and effectiveness [of use cases]". To this end, the book describes some three-dozen patterns, each of which describes a desirable characteristic. Perhaps half of these address issues of good use case writing practice. The scope of the rest is wide-ranging: some patterns apply to the use case development team, others to the process of writing use cases, still others to desirable properties of a use case collection. Despite the book's title, the 'pattern' concept - in the sense of a clearly identifiable template - is less evident than in the programming language patterns I have seen described: personally, I would describe these more as principles than patterns.

Nomenclature aside, the patterns described here encapsulate valuable advice in my own experience. I am at the tail end of a project to describe the requirements for complex information system. Some two-thirds of the patterns in this book were directly relevant to the project, and in almost all of these my experiences on the project lead me to agree with the authors' description of the issues and the conclusions reached. For me that endorsement is a significant testimonial to the quality of the content, and I would feel that the authors have achieved their stated aim.

However I do have reservations about the manner in which the advice is presented. This is a shame, because the authors have obviously gone to some trouble to make the book accessible: unfortunately, I didn't appreciate some of the devices employed - for example, fictitious anecdotes with 'you' as the wise consultant I found to be more of a distraction than a clarification. This should not detract from the basic worth of the book - it just makes that worth a little harder to extract than it should be.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.