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4.3. Output of the Requirements Capture Process
Almost all the output of the requirements capture process
is documentary. The only diagram is the use case diagram,
showing the relationships between use cases and actors.
Typical sections of this document would be as
Summary. A statement of the
context, problem and solution goals.
Goals. What are we trying to
achieve (and how do we wish to achieve it).
Market Context or
Contractual Arrangements. For a
market led development, this should indicate target
markets, competitive differentiators, compelling events
and so forth. For a contractual development this should
explain the key contractual drivers.
Stakeholders. The users (in
the widest sense) of the system. Many of these will map
in to actors, or control equipment that maps into
Key Features. At the very
highest level what are they key functional aspects of the
problem/desired solution. These will largely map down to
the use cases. It is helpful to give some prioritization
Constraints. A high level view
of the non-functional parameters of the system. These
will be worked out in detail in the supplementary
Appendix. A listing of the
actors and use cases that will be needed to meet this
vision. It is useful to link to these from the earlier
sections to ensure comprehensive coverage.
The vision document has identified the use cases and
actors. The use case diagram captures how they interact. In
our ATM example we have identified “customer uses
machine”, “maintain machine” and
“audit” as the three main use cases. We have
identified “customer”, maintenance
engineer“,”“local branch official”
and “central computer” as the actors.
Figure 4.1, “Basic use case diagram for an ATM system”
shows how this could be displayed on a use case diagram. The
use cases are shown as ovals, the actors as stick people
(even where they are machines), with lines (known as
associations connecting use cases to the
actors who are involved with them. A box around the use cases
emphasizes the boundary between the system (defined by the
use cases) and the actors who are external.
Not all analysts like to use a box around the use
cases. It is a matter of personal choice.
Figure 4.1. Basic use case diagram for an ATM system
The following sections show how the basic use case
diagram can be extended to show additional information about
the system being designed.
22.214.171.124. Active and Passive Actors
Active actors initiate
interaction with the system. This can be shown by placing
an arrow on the association from the actor pointing toward
the use case. In the ATM example, the customer is an active
Interaction with passive actors
is initiated by the system. This can be shown by placing an
arrow on the association from the use case pointing toward
the actor. In the ATM example, the central computer is a
This is a good example where the arrow helps, since
it allows us to distinguish an event driven system (the ATM
initiates interaction with the central computer) from a
polling system (the central computer interrogates the ATM
from time to time).
Where an actor may be either active or passive,
depending on circumstances, the arrow may be omitted. In
the ATM example the bank engineer fits into this category.
Normally he is active, turning up on a regular cycle to
service the machine. However if the ATM detects a fault, it
may summon the engineer to fix it.
The use of arrows on associations is referred to as
the navigation of the association.
We shall see this used elsewhere in UML later on.
The choice, by the OMG, of zero vice two arrowheads to show
a bidirectional association is unfortunate.
Under this convention you cannot distinguish between an
association whose navigation has yet to be determined and one
that is bidirectional.
Figure 4.2, “Use case diagram for an ATM system showing
shows the ATM use case diagram with navigation
Figure 4.2. Use case diagram for an ATM system showing
It can be useful to show the
multiplicity of associations between
actors and use cases. By this we mean how many instances of
an actor interact with how many instances of the use
By default we assume one instance of an actor
interacts with one instance of a use case. In other cases
we can label the multiplicity of one end of the
association, either with a number to indicate how many
instances are involved, or with a range separated by two
..). An asterisk (
*) is used to indicate an arbitrary
In the ATM example, there is only one central
computer, but it may be auditing any number of ATM uses. So
we place the label
0..* at the use case
end. There is no need for a label at the other end, since
the default is one.
A local bank will have up to three officials
authorized to unload and load ATM machines. So at the actor
end of the relationship with the use case
ATM, we place the label
They may be dealing with any number of ATM machines, so at
the other end we place the label
There may be any number of customers and there may be
any number of ATM systems they could use. So at each end of
the association we place the label
Figure 4.3, “Use case diagram for an ATM system showing
shows the ATM use case diagram with multiplicity
Figure 4.3. Use case diagram for an ATM system showing
Multiplicity can clutter a diagram, and is often not
shown, except where it is critical to understanding. In the
ATM example we would only choose to show
1..3 against the local bank official, since all
others are obvious from the context.
126.96.36.199. Hierarchies of Use Cases
In our ATM example so far we have just three use
cases to describe all the behavior of the system. While use
cases should always describe a significant chunk of system
behavior, if they are too general they can be difficult to
We could for example define the behavior of the use
case “Use ATM” in terms of the behavior of
three simpler use cases, “Deposit Cash”,
“Withdraw Cash” and “Query
Account”. The main use case could be specified by
including the behavior of the
subsidiary use cases where needed.
Similarly the “Maintain ATM” use case
could be defined in terms of two use cases “Maintain
Equipment” and “Reload ATM”. In this
case the two actors involved in the main use case are
really only involved in one or other of the two subsidiary
use cases and this can be shown on the diagram.
The decomposition of a use case into simpler sub-use
cases is shown in UML by using an include
relationship, a dotted arrow from the main use
case to the subsidiary, with the label
Figure 4.4. Use case diagram for an ATM system showing include
Include relationships are fine for breaking down the
use case behaviors in to hierarchies. However we may also
want to show a use case that is an
extension to an existing use case to
cater for a particular circumstance.
In the ATM example we have a use case covering
routine maintenance of the ATM, “Maintain
Equipment”. We also want to cover the special case
of an unscheduled repair caused by the ATM detecting an
This is shown in UML by the
extend relationship. In the main use
case, we specify a name for a location in the description,
where an extension to the behavior could be attached. The
name and location are shown in a separate compartment
within the use case oval. The representation extend
relationship is the same as the include relationship, but
with the label «extend». Alongside the
extend relationship, we specify the condition under which
that behavior will be attached.
Figure 4.5, “Use case diagram for an ATM system showing an
shows the ATM use case diagram with an extend relationship
to a use case for unscheduled repairs. The diagram is now
getting rather complex, and so we have split it into two,
one for the maintenance side of things, the other for
customer usage and audit.
The “Maintain Equipment” use case
defines a name “Unsched”, at the start of its
description. The extending use case “Unscheduled
Repair” is attached there when the ATM detects an
Figure 4.5. Use case diagram for an ATM system showing an
Use cases may be linked together in one other way.
One use case may be a generalization
of a subsidiary use case (or alternatively the subsidiary
is a specialization of the main use
This is very like the extends relationship, but
without the constraint of specific extension points at
which the main use case may be extended, and with no
condition on when the subsidiary use case may be
Generalization is shown on a use case diagram by an
arrow with solid line and solid white head from the
subsidiary to the main use case.
This may be useful when a subsidiary use case
specializes the behavior of the main use case at a large
number of positions and under a wide range of
However the lack of any restriction makes
generalization very hard to specify precisely.
In general use an extend relationship instead.
4.3.3. The Use Case Specification
Each use case must be documented to explain in detail
the behavior it is specifying.
ArgoUML assists in this area through the generation of graphic
files for inclusion in this documentation.
This document is known by different names in different processes:
use case specification,
use case scenario or even (confusingly) just
A typical use case specification will include the following
Name. The name of the use case
to which this relates.
Goal. A one or two line
summary of what this use case achieves for its
Actors. The actors involved in
this use case, and any context regarding their
This should not be a description of the actor.
That should be associated with the actor on the use
Pre-condition. These would be
better named “pre-assumptions”, but the term
used everywhere is pre-conditions. This is a statement of
any simplifying assumptions we can make at the start of
the use case.
In the ATM example we might make the assumption for
the“Maintain Equipment” use case that an
engineer is always available, and we do not need to worry
about the case where a routine maintenance visit is
Avoid pre-conditions wherever possible. You need
to be absolutely certain that the pre-condition holds
under all possible circumstances. If not your system
will be under specified and hence will fail when the
pre-condition is not true. Alternatively, when you
cannot be certain the pre-condition is always true, you
will need to specify a second use case to handle the
pre-condition being false. In the first case,
pre-conditions are a source of problems, in the second
a source of more work.
Basic Flow. The linear
sequence of steps that describe the behavior of the use
case in the “normal” scenario. Where a use
case has a number of scenarios that could be normal, one
is arbitrarily selected. Specifying the basic flow is
described in more detail in
Section 188.8.131.52, “Specifying the Basic Flow” below.
Alternate Flows. A series of
linear sequences describing each of the alternative
behaviors to the basic flow. Specifying alternate flows
is described in more detail in
Section 184.108.40.206, “Specifying the Alternate Flows”.
Post-conditions. These would
be better named “post-assumptions”. This is
a statement of any assumptions that we can make at the
end of the use case. Most useful where the use case is
one of a series of subsidiary use cases that are included
in a main use case, where they can form the
pre-conditions of the next use case to be included.
Like pre-conditions, post-conditions are best
avoided. They place a burden on the specification of
the use case flows, to ensure that the post-condition
always holds. They therefore are also a source of
problems and extra work.
Requirements. In an ideal
world the vision document, use case diagrams, use case
specifications and supplementary requirements
specification would form the requirements for a
For most market-led developments, where ownership
of requirements is within the same business as the team
who will do the development, this is now usually the
case. The marketing department can learn use case based
requirements capture and analysis to link to their
customer facing activities.
However for external contract developments,
customers may insist on a traditional “list of
features” as the basis of the contract. Where this
is the case, this section of the use case specification
should link to the contract features that are covered by
the use case.
This is often done through a third party tool that
can link documents, providing automated checking of
coverage, in which case this section is not needed, or
may be generated automatically.
The final size of the use case specification will
depend on the complexity of the use case. As a rule of thumb,
most use cases take around 10-15 pages to specify, the bulk
of which is alternate flows. If you are much larger than
this, consider breaking the use case down. If you are much
smaller consider whether the use case is addressing too small
a chunk of behavior.
220.127.116.11. Specifying the Basic Flow
All flows in a use case specification are linear—that
is there is no conditional branching. Any choices in flows
are handled by specifying another alternate flow that takes
over at the choice point. It is important to remember we
are specifying behavior here, not programming it.
A flow is specified as a series of numbered steps.
Each step must involve some interaction with an actor, or
at least generate a change that is observable externally by
an actor. Requirements capture should not be specifying
hidden internal behavior of a system.
For example we might give the following sequence of
steps for the basic flow of the use case "Withdraw
Cash" in our ATM example.
Customer indicates a receipt is required.
Customer enters amount of cash required.
ATM verifies with the central computer that the
customer can make this withdrawal.
ATM dispenses cash to the customer.
ATM issues receipt to customer.
Remember this is a sub-use case included in the main
“Use ATM” use case, which will presumably
handle checking of cards and PINs before invoking this
included use case.
The first step is not a condition. We take as our
basic flow the case where the customer does want a
receipt. The case where the customer does not want a
receipt will be an alternative flow.
18.104.22.168. Specifying the Alternate Flows
This captures the alternative scenarios, as linear
flows, by reference to the basic flow. Initially we just
build a list of the alternate flows.
Customer does not require a receipt.
Customer's account will not support the
Communication to the central computer is
The customer cancels the transaction.
The customer fails to take the dispensed
Subsequently we flesh out each alternate flow, by
reference to the basic flow. For example the first
alternate flow might look like.
Customer does not require a receipt.
At step 1 of the basic flow the customer
indicates they do not want a receipt.
The basic flow proceeds from step 2 to
step 4, and step 5 is not used.
The convention is to number the various alternate
flows as A.1, A.2, A.3, etc. The steps within an alternate
flow are then numbered from this. So the steps of the first
alternate flow would be A.1.1, A.1.2, A.1.3, etc.
22.214.171.124. Iterative Development of Use Case
Iterative development will prioritize the use cases,
and the first iterations will address the most
Early iterations will capture the basic flows of the
most important use cases with only essential detail and
list the headings of the main alternate flows.
Later iterations will address the remaining use
cases, flesh out the steps on individual alternate flows
and possibly provide more detail on individual steps.
4.3.4. Supplementary Requirement Specification
This captures the non-functional requirements or
constraints placed on the system. Since use cases are
inherently functional in nature, they cannot capture this
sort of information.
Some analysts like to place non-functional
requirements in a section at the end of each use case
specification, containing the non-functional requirements
relevant to the use case.
This can cause some problems.
First key non-functional requirements (for example about
performance) may need to appear in many use cases and it is bad
practice to replicate information.
Secondly there are invariably some non-functional requirements
that are system wide and need a system wide document.
Hence my preference for a single supplementary requirements
There should be a section for each of the main areas of
non-functional requirements. The checklist provided by Ian
Sommerville in his book Software
Engineering (Third Edn, Addison-Wesley, 1989) is a
Speed. Processor performance,
user/event response times, screen refresh time.
Size. Main memory (and
possibly caches), disc capacity.
Ease of use. Training time,
style and detail of help system.
Reliability. Mean time to
failure, probability of unavailability, rate of failure,
Robustness. Time to restart
after failure, percentage of events causing failure,
probability of data corruption on failure.
Portability. Percentage of
target-dependent code/classes, number of target
To this we should add sections on environment
(temperature, humidity, lightening protection status) and