Thursday Aug 23, 2012

Reflections on the Agile2012 Conference

Last week, I had the great fortune to attend the Agile2012 conference at the lovely Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, TX, just a short drive (at least by Texas standards) from where I live.  Overall, the conference was a great experience and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to participate.   I picked up a number of ideas for tools and techniques that will most likely find their way into OUM at some point.   It was encouraging to hear real-world agile success stories described at a number of the sessions and to see the passion and energy from the conference attendees.  Discussions with fellow agile practitioners were extremely valuable, as is usually the case at such conferences.  I plan to include some of these topics in future blogs.

I found that many of the ideas we promote in OUM about balancing agility and discipline are now becoming increasingly in vogue within the agile community.  Teams are finding it valuable to produce plans and documentation at the appropriate level depending on the particular project situation.   Keeping an eye on enterprise architecture and establishing a solid technical architecture was a common theme in several of the sessions I attended.  Whether people use the term iteration or sprint, there was a true appreciation of how the agile approach to managing projects drives out risks and identifies possible errors early on in the project.  To sum it up, I got the impression from the conference that there is a growing recognition of the benefits of flexible and scalable methods like OUM.

I heard several people mention that the Wild West days of agile are coming to an end.  It is my theory that the wider approval of agile techniques, coupled with the growing practice among agile teams to apply a certain amount of discipline, is probably leading to the Wild West impression fading away into the sunset.  In any case, I thought the phrase was rather appropriate given the venue.

What do you think?  Are the Wild West days of agile coming to an end?  Are those days a perception, reality or both?

Monday Aug 13, 2012

A Use Case for the Olympic 100m Final


Unless you have been hiding away on a desert island, you would probably have seen Usain Bolt win the 100m Gold Medal at the London 2012 Olympics!

It would clearly be “absurd” to write a Use Case for such an event, but nevertheless, it serves as a good memory jogger for the various components of a Use Case.

Let’s set the scene by having a quick recap, along with a very brief (summarized) description of the major components of a fully dressed1 Use Case:

Use Case Name: 4 words or less, and conveys the goal of the Primary Actor

Primary Actor: The actor who has the primary reason for interacting with the business/system

Secondary Actor(s): actors who support the completion of the Use Case

Assumptions: what do we believe to be true, but may later prove to be untrue

Pre-Conditions: that which must be true before the use case can start

Trigger: event(s) that initiate/start the Use Case

Main Success Scenario: the ‘Happy Path’ to achieve the goal of the Primary Actor

Alternate Scenario: alternate paths that still achieve the goal of the Primary Actor

Exception Scenario: exception paths where the goal of the Primary Actor is not met

Let’s now overlay those terms onto our 100m Olympic Race

Use Case Component






Use Case Name:


Run 100m Race

4 words or less!

Primary Actor:




Secondary Actor(s):


Starting Official




The Primary Actor has no injuries

We can’t be 100% sure of this, and we certainly cannot test for it with absolute accuracy, therefore we make it an assumption




Primary Actor has passed the doping test, and has a valid qualifying time

We can verify these conditions before the Use Case starts, and in fact, we would not want the Use Case to start if any of these conditions could not be verified




Starting Official fires the starting pistol

This is somewhat controversial in the sense that one could argue that the trigger could be the Athlete ‘hearing’ the starting gun, or even the Athlete taking the first step out of the blocks. However for the purpose of this ‘memory jogger’ let’s just go with the fact that the Use Case cannot start until the starting pistol is fired!

Main Success Scenario:


 <!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The Use Case begins when the Primary Actors launches out of the blocks

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]--> The ‘System’ responds by…………

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The Use Case ends when the Primary Actor crosses the finish line


Alternate Scenario


A false start occurs, resulting in a restart

The Athlete will still cross the finish line, therefore the ‘goal’ of the Use Case is still achieved

Exception Scenario:


The Primary Actor tears a muscle during the race and is not able to cross the finish line

One of our assumptions proves to be incorrect, and therefore the Use Case ‘goal’ cannot be met



We could extend this analogue even further by thinking of Post Conditions for each of the scenarios, but hopefully you get the idea!

Cleary this is a very basic example, and we don’t even touch upon timing devices, photo finish etc.

This is just a ‘Memory Jogger’ so don’t worry about whether this is a Business Use Case, or a System Use Case. We’ll leave that topic for another Blog entry!


1 Cockburn, A, 2000, Writing Effective Use Case, Addison-Wesley Professional; Edition 1





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