Unified Modeling Language (UML)

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Use case models have been around for decades. Long after Information Engineering was all the rage and through object-oriented analysis and design they hung around. They threatened to disappear when Agile methods gained popularity, but here they are. Discussed, dissected, blogged about—why don’t they just go away?! 

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Use case diagrams are used to show the decomposition of a business problem or software solution into a set of discrete functions (the use cases) which can be enacted by or on behalf of users (the actors). In a nutshell, this diagram shows who (the actors) can do what (the use cases) when interacting with the software solution.

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Unified Modeling Language (UML) Activity Diagrams are rather like traditional flowcharts that may be used to describe the steps required to enact high level business processes or low level algorithms. From the software analyst’s perspective these diagrams are most useful for representing business processes, so this will be our focus here. Whereas activity diagrams are often relegated to the final chapters of the UML text books, I prefer to present them up-front as the logical starting point for any UML analysis and design endeavor.

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We are frequently asked about connecting and tracing software architecture elements to business processes by integrating BPMN business models and software models in UML (Unified Modeling Language)... Now we will explore how to supplement business architecture with software architecture. 

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Today’s letter is “C” – for Class Diagrams. Business Analysts use Class Diagrams to help them discover ‘structural’ business rules and to document them in a visual form that is readily understood by developers.  What is a structural rule?

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This article proposes a use case best practice technique: Always document decisions separately and explicitly in use case scenarios. This practice assists the business analyst in identifying where alternate and exception paths may be needed.This is similar to how decisions and resulting gateways are documented in Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN).

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At some stage in their working life, every business analyst will have some involvement with data modelling. They may need to model how data is (or will be) used or - if they only deal with requirements investigation - then someone else in the team will need to verify that the data to support new functions will be available.

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Use Case Points are used as an analysis phase technique for estimating software development. Assuming the Business Analyst (BA) composes system use cases for describing functional requirements, the BA can use this technique for estimating the follow-on implementation effort. This article reviews the process of estimating the follow-on development effort for use cases.

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A swimlane diagram is a type of process flow diagram (also sometimes called a cross-functional diagram) that features divisions or "lanes." Each lane is assigned an actor (which may be an individual, department, division, group, machine, entity, and so on), or even a phase or stage in a process, that is responsible for the activity or work described in the lane.

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An activity diagram is a type of flowchart that is part of the UML (Unified Modeling Language) standard. Its purpose is to enable analysts to present a concrete, easy-to-follow visual of the workflow of a business use case.

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Almost every business analyst uses diagramming software in their arsenal of analysis tools. According to BABOK 2.0, an analyst’s traditional purpose in using diagramming tools is to “support the rapid drawing and documentation of a model, typically by providing a set of templates for a particular notation which are used to develop diagrams based on it.” Diagrams not only make requirements clearer to stakeholders through modeling, they help clarify an analyst’s thinking on a project through the process of their very creation.

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While most business analyst roles don't explicitly require static modeling expertise, developing a better understanding of static modeling concepts can be a measurable forward step for business analysts seeking to develop new competencies. Such skills can be useful in many aspects of the BA work, from obtaining a better understanding of stakeholders' information needs, to documenting those needs in unambiguous ways and communicating them more effectively to the technical team.

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As part of the Unified Modeling Language, Activity diagrams are often utilized for many software projects. However, a few questions about Activity diagrams linger in the minds of many Business Analysts, such as: Who is really using them? What kind of projects are they being used on? Why are people not using them? How are people using them? Are they providing any benefit?
 

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There is much written today about separating business rules from other dimensions of automated business systems. Without proper separation, they operate in enterprises without a great deal of thought given to them. Ironically, they may be the most important dimension because they represent important business thinking behind processes, use cases, for example. This article discusses various approaches for dealing with business rules and use cases.
 

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Some people use them. Some people don't use them. Some people create them using sophisticated tools. Some use basic drawing programs. As part of the Unified Modeling Language, Use Case diagrams are often the starting point for many software projects. However, questions about Use Case diagrams still linger in the minds of many Business Analysts...

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