What is a good use case?

Organizations are becoming more and more data driven. At SMT we believe that companies no longer have to make decisions based on a gut feeling, but that every decision must be based on hard facts and data.
The way to prepare an organization for a data-driven approach is to collect use cases. These small business cases describe which decisions are taken, what data is required and how this contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization.

 

Below you will find the four essential steps to build a great use case.

1. Determine the business goals.

Everything an organization does must contribute to the goals of the company. This should not be confused with the aim for the highest profit. Making a profit is a consequence, and often also a condition, for achieving the set goals. The business goals are the why of an organization; Why do we do what we do?
Mapping the ‘why’ is the most important factor in determining the added value of the use case for the organization. Should there be multiple use cases, priorities can be set based on the value for the organization.

For example, an interior shop with a vision to improve the daily life of its customers. This abstract goal translates to the way products are made and which products should have a place in the shop. It also affects the experience of customers in the store, on the website and the brand externally. For an IT department, this means that all provided services must serve this experience. Employees must be able to respond promptly and expertly to customer inquiries and use various IT services. The priority of a use case is therefore largely determined by the impact it has on this experience. Improving an application that is used in the store is more important in this example than increasing the response time of an application that is used by personnel behind the scenes.

 

2. Look at the value chain.

A business process often consists of a series of actions in which those involved have different wishes and needs. A good use case takes into account this entire chain of actions and meets everyone’s needs. In an organization, a large part of the chain is now executed by technical processes. Payment, stock, planning and logistics systems are involved in the sale of a sofa by the furniture manufacturer. In addition, supporting processes such as marketing, the service desk, and an IT team are also needed to provide technical and operational support.
It is therefore essential to map the entire chain in order to ensure that everyone’s interest becomes measurable and transparent.

For example, you may discover that a capacity problem at the service desk has several causes. An important factor seems to be that HR has a hard time finding enough people with the right skills. In addition, it also appears that the current test team did not grow as fast as the number of software developers. Hence, the quality of the software has deteriorated, which means that the service desk is burdened with more user questions.

 

3. Determine the risks, costs and revenues.

A use case can contribute to the business objectives in various ways. The most important factors are risk, costs and revenues. In order to achieve an increased return in the short term, you search for the use case that, with little effort, will reduce the costs, increase the revenue or lower the risk exposure.

It is almost impossible to not make assumptions or work with estimates at this stage. By definition, these are not accurate, so you must consciously deal with uncertainties. A good way to deal with this is to provide insight into the degree of uncertainty.

 

4. Provide a clear scope.

Determining, and especially sticking to, a scope is a challenge in every project. This is also the case when drawing up and defining a use case. Therefore, determining the scope is really important, from start to end. We have to look at the technical systems that are or aren’t involved, but also the associated processes and procedures. Identify specifically what is inside and outside the scope. Keep in mind the interests of the various parties involved in the use case, what may be self-evident for one person, may need to be clarified for another.

 

November 2018