Wednesday Nov 21, 2012

When should I use a Process Model versus a Use Case?

This Blog entry is a follow on to https://blogs.oracle.com/oum/entry/oum_is_business_process_and and addresses a question I sometimes get asked…..i.e. “when I am gathering requirements on a Project, should I use a Process Modeling approach, or should I use a Use Case approach?”

Not surprisingly, the short answer is “it depends”!

Let’s take a scenario where you are working on a Sales Force Automation project. We’ll call the process that is being implemented “Lead-to-Order”.

I would typically think of this type of project as being “Process Centric”. In other words, the focus will be on orchestrating a series of human and system related tasks that ultimately deliver value to the business in a cost effective way. Put in even simpler terms……implement an automated pre-sales system.

For this type of (Process Centric) project, requirements would typically be gathered through a series of Workshops where the focal point will be on creating, or confirming, the Future-State (To-Be) business process. If pre-defined “best-practice” business process models exist, then of course they could and should be used during the Workshops, but even in their absence, the focus of the Workshops will be to define the optimum series of Tasks, their connections, sequence, and dependencies that will ultimately reflect a business process that meets the needs of the business.

Now let’s take another scenario. Assume you are working on a Content Management project that involves automating the creation and management of content for User Manuals, Web Sites, Social Media publications etc. Would you call this type of project “Process Centric”?.......well you could, but it might also fall into the category of complex configuration, plus some custom extensions to a standard software application (COTS).

For this type of project it would certainly be worth considering using a Use Case approach in order to 1) understand the requirements, and 2) to capture the functional requirements of the custom extensions.

At this point you might be asking “why couldn't I use a Process Modeling approach for my Content Management project?” Well, of course you could, but you just need to think about which approach is the most effective. Start by analyzing the types of Tasks that will eventually be automated by the system, for example:

 

Best Suited To?

 

Task Name

 

Process Model

 

Use Case

 

Notes

 

Manage outbound calls

 

Ö

 

 

A series of linked human and system tasks for calling and following up with prospects

Manage content revision

 

 

Ö

Updating the content on a website

Update User Preferences

 

 

Ö

Updating a users display preferences

Assign Lead

 

Ö

 

Reviewing a lead, then assigning it to a sales person

Convert Lead to Quote

 

Ö

 

Updating the status of a lead, and then converting it to a sales order

 

As you can see, it’s not an exact science, and either approach is viable for the Tasks listed above.

However, where you have a series of interconnected Tasks or Activities, than when combined, deliver value to the business, then that would be a good indicator to lead with a Process Modeling approach. Another good indicator, is when the majority of the Tasks or Activities are available from within the standard COTS application.

On the other hand, when the Tasks or Activities in question are more isolated, tend not to cross traditional departmental boundaries, or involve very complex configuration or custom development work, then a Use Case approach should be considered

Now let’s take one final scenario…..

As you captured the To-Be Process flows for the Sales Force automation project, you discover a “Gap” in terms of what the client requires, and what the standard COTS application can provide. Let’s assume that the only way forward is to develop a Custom Extension. This would now be a perfect opportunity to document the functional requirements (behind the Gap) using a Use Case approach. After all, we will be developing some new software, and one of the most effective ways to begin the Software Development Lifecycle is to follow a Use Case approach.

As always, your comments are most welcome.

 

 

 

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