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Add some UMPH to your UML

In the world of analysis, at least one thing is true: if you like diagrams, you have probably come to be close with Unified Modeling Language (UML). UML Diagrams are helpful to show flows and relationships of information. This helps to illustrate data points, structure and interactions. Here are some ways to enhance their effectiveness when dealing with stakeholders at all levels:


Clean Connectors

Showing directions and connections is helpful, but connectors crossing over can quickly turn a diagram into a confusing web. Because UML Diagrams can vary in complexity and granularity, crossing streams can be unavoidable. Lines should cross as minimally as possible, but if they do have to cross, they should show as a “hop”. Most programs default to this feature when connectors go through each other without a particularly specified intersection. If connectors are not looking separated enough and have too many unnecessary hops, consider the component or class layout being used and see if the objects/items can be better sequenced.

Connector types should also be utilized where necessary to show the nature of interactions, whether it is to illustrate direction or dependencies. This can allow for some detail that could be taken out of the explanation pieces of your documentation.




Know your Domain

UML diagrams have a specific best-case utility and are strongest when they are describing and modeling objects and displaying aspects of system views. Alternatively, Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) helps to show or describe the business process. Understanding how the two differ and how to best use them in your modeling can help to optimize the effectiveness of your documentation and communication. Depending on the project, UML diagrams may be helpful in creating documentation to detail functionality and object interaction. BPMN diagrams can be useful communication aids, especially since they can tailor to the audience; for example, a BPMN that shows a high-level view of the process may be best to use in presentations to individuals that have executive governance in a project.


Speaking of Communication…

Using the correct pieces of UML diagrams can also help to keep any text requirement of information appropriately concise. This means avoiding having to describe your intention of objects or classes to a reader, and instead, simply using the standardized shapes and connectors to represent the information being illustrated. A good UML should have minimal text detail in the itemized areas, and the rest of the information conveyed through the standardized language UML provides.