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Tag: Use Cases

What’s Next: The Future of Business Analysis in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, professionals across industries are witnessing the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Business analyst profession is not untouched and is on the brink of a significant shift in its roles and responsibilities. As AI technologies continue to advance, they are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of business analysis. In this blog, we’ll deep dive into how AI is set to impact the future of business analyst professionals.

 

The Rise of AI in Business Analysis

 

1. Data-Driven Insights

Business analysts have always been tasked with extracting valuable insights from data to support decision-making. AI, with its machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics, empowers analysts to delve deeper into data. They can now unearth hidden patterns, make more accurate forecasts, and identify trends that might have remained concealed with traditional business analysis methods.

 

2. Enhanced Efficiency

AI-driven automation tools can handle repetitive tasks, such as data collection and cleansing, leaving analysts with more time for critical thinking and strategic analysis. This increased efficiency allows business analysts to focus on high-impact activities, making them indispensable assets to their organizations.

 

 

 

 

  1. Real-time Analytics

AI enables real-time data analysis, providing business analysts with most relevant and current insights. This instant access to reliable and accurate information empowers business analysts to respond swiftly to market changes and emerging trends, enabling more predictable and agile decision-making which is critical for reaching organization’s strategic goals.

 

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  1. The Evolving Role of Business Analysts

As AI becomes more integrated into business operations, the role of business analysts is evolving in several significant ways:

 

  • From Data Analysts to Data Strategists

With AI handling routine data analysis, business analysts are transitioning from mere data collectors to data strategists. They are expected to interpret AI-generated insights and translate them into actionable business strategies.

  • Ethical Considerations and challenges

AI raises ethical concerns, such as bias in algorithms and data privacy issues. The role of Business analyst is to navigate through these ethical challenges and ensure that AI systems are used responsibly and the data they collect and analyze is both accurate and unbiased.

  • Cross-functional Collaboration with different partners

Business analysts are increasingly expected to collaborate with data scientists and AI engineers to develop and implement AI-powered solutions. Effective communication and collaboration between these roles are vital for successful AI integration and forms core of various digitization initiatives.

  • Continuous Learning is the key to success

The rapid evolution of AI requires business analysts to engage in continuous learning and skill development. Staying updated on AI technologies and methodologies is crucial to remain relevant in their roles.

  • The Impact on Job Market

Even though the initial buzzword of AI lead to job insecurities but future seems to be bright. While AI is automating some aspects of business analysis, it is also creating new opportunities. The demand for business analysts who can harness AI and effectively interpret its insights is on the rise. Companies are actively seeking professionals with AI skills to drive innovation and competitive advantage.

 

Conclusion

Industry’s future hinges on how well business analysts use Artificial Intelligence (AI). Business analysts will find themselves at the vanguard of data-driven decision-making as AI technology develops and advances. They will play more strategic and team-oriented roles with an emphasis on utilizing AI to boost corporate success. Business analysts are expected to embrace AI and see it as a potent tool if they want to succeed in this dynamic and fast paced environment. They should invest in their AI-related skills, navigate through ethical challenges, and adjust to the shifting needs of the labor market. By doing so, they will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that Artificial Intelligence presents and remain valuable resources for their organizations in years to come.

Use Case or User Story

An interesting question!  Do we stick with use cases or switch to agile user stories as the best way to model, understand and deliver requirements?

The answer is to apply both techniques and together they work well to complement each other. In this approach, I view the use case as a business use case focused on business actions and processes; the user story is focused on the system requirements elaborating what is required of the system to support the business use case and supporting the agile sprint development process.

 

Use Cases

 

The objective of the use case in this context is to communicate the understanding of the requirement to the SMEs and stakeholders to ensure that the correct solution will be developed. It won’t be fool proof, but it should help steer the development in the right direction; until the first show and tell session, you can never be absolutely sure the requirement has been fully understood.

I would restrict the use case content to be only that essential to explain how the requirement will be delivered; alternate flows etc should be pushed into the use stories as far as possible. It may well be useful to expose some draft business rules for discussion as part of the use case but keep in mind the rules will need to be included and implemented via the user stories.

The Tool

We had already setup a wiki using the Atlassian Confluence tool, the logical step was to extend the existing wiki and introduce a fairly simple template for our use case pages; different tools could be adopted, even PowerPoint would work. Using Confluence allowed existing content to be linked directly into our use case pages as needed; it also includes a presentation mode allowing page content to be used directly in a presentation and exported to PDF or Word format documents.

The use cases can then be used to present back to the SMEs and stakeholders to confirm the understanding of requirements and the validity of the proposed process.

 

Tip – Catalogue Use Cases

It is useful to have index of all the use cases that includes a status to show work in progress, which ones have been published and those reviewed with SMEs. We managed our use case catalogue within Confluence using custom decision pages to provide an index view of all the cases.

 

User Stories

 

The key differentiator with the story is that it targets a specific system requirement and product feature, explaining a feature to an SME is a valid activity but without the context of the overall process, it might be a hard sell. Typically, you will need to introduce some supporting product features which may not be immediately obvious to SMEs; hence combining the stories together into a coherent business process will help SMEs to understand the overall solution context.

User stories can be identified but not elaborated depending on the level of confidence in understanding for a given requirement and business process. It may be appropriate to propose a change based on the understanding prior to a workshop or it might be better to get feedback from the workshop and then work on the stories with the knowledge gained.

The objective is to gain confidence in the understanding of a requirement so that everything can proceed down the right track with a joined-up set of product features.

Tip – Catalogue User Stories

A template for developing user stories can be adopted, this is useful as a prompt for details which may be appropriate e.g., what’s the existing feature doing currently and what needs to be changed. We managed our use story catalogue within Confluence using custom decision pages to provide and index view.

 

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Joined Up Thinking

Use cases and user stories come together in the steps of a use case i.e., supporting the flow, whether it is worth elaborating main flows and alternate flows within a single business use case is debatable. The key objective is to keep the use case as simple as possible whilst demonstrating how the requirement will be met, so adding exception flows may cause confusion at this stage.

It is also possible that an existing feature will support a requirement without the need for a change story to be introduced; it is valid to include this feature in the use case as a step to demonstrate how this will work. For an existing feature, screen shots can be included and marked up with candidate changes; for a new feature then a wireframe mock-up may be included where a user interface is needed to support a step in the process.

 

Tip – Catalogue Use Cases

It will be useful to have index of all the use cases that includes a status to show which ones have been published and review with SMEs. We managed our use case catalogue within Confluence using custom decision pages to provide and index view.

Requirements and Use Cases

Now we are starting to build up a comprehensive set of product features that will meet the requirements and these will have been validated with SMEs; so, we are in a good position to elaborate the details of the user stories that will be needed to change existing features and add new features to the product.

Tip – Link Requirements

Linking requirements to use cases is a useful way to file the information, not all requirements will need separate use cases only those where confirmation is needed to better understand the underlying business need which can sometimes be obscured by a badly written requirement.

 

Conclusion

The use case is the glue that binds the product features and stories together into a comprehensive system that will meet the stated requirements; the user stories allow this requirement to be broken down into manageable features for delivery by agile sprint development teams.

Did You Know That a Business Analyst Is as Important in Software Testing as a QA Specialist?

An IT Business Analyst is a member of a product development team. Such specialists are involved in all stages of the SDLC, from requirements gathering to software launch. They not only connect project teams with customers but also know the peculiarities of products in detail, resolve disputes and advise how this or that software solution should work according to the requirements. They are also an authoritative source of information for QA professionals. Let’s take a closer look at the role of a Business Analyst in software testing.

Primary responsibilities of a Business Analyst on a project

A Business Analyst represents an IT outsourcing company team at the first meeting with a customer and remains the main contact person for product development until the end of a project. This specialist informs developers about the client’s interests and makes it possible for the product owner to give feedback on the software. Business Analysts help to carry out business communication, and any project starts from their work. The main responsibilities of these experts can be briefly described in four theses. A Business Analyst:

  1. Helps businesses to study the market and current offers to learn about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and thus build the best application. Analyzing market trends, a Business Analyst foresees what will be relevant for users at the time of product release. As a result, the platform will be interesting for the target audience and function properly from the first day of launch.
  2. Advises the client on how to develop a product with minimal investment and maximum ROI in the future. Using the results of market research and relying on the capabilities of the client, they offer a “silver bullet” to solve business problems so that the customer achieves the desired goals at a lower cost.
  3. Prepares documentation for the project which is a kind of “bible” for the development team. Based on it, programmers write code, designers prepare layouts, and testers create test cases. Thanks to the specification, customers track the progress and make sure that the software meets their vision and the project goes according to plan.
  4. Advises the development team on relevant issues. Such an expert knows more about the product being developed than other team members. This fact makes them the main product consultant who will clarify any requirements.

 

“But what about testing?” you may ask. Let’s figure it out.

 

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What does a Business Analyst have to do with software testing?

As we have mentioned above, an IT Business Analyst prepares the basis for a project and launches the work of all team members. Requirements prepared by this specialist become a guideline for developers, testers, and designers. Business Analysts do not directly test the product, but participate in the following procedures:

 

Preparation of test documentation. A Business Analyst checks the correctness of test cases, helps to generate test data and suggests an improvement plan.

 

This specialist signs a test plan if authorized to do so and checks if existing scenarios match user stories.

 

A Business Analyst prioritizes requirements and features and changes the priority if the conditions on the project change.

 

Such an expert helps to make sure that the detected incorrect behavior of a system is a defect. QA specialists focus on requirements in their work, but if they do not understand certain points, they turn to Business Analysts to clarify the details, examine bugs, and tell if these are bugs indeed or the intended behavior of the program.

 

This IT professional resolves disputes between developers and testers. Even if the requirements are written and collected, this does not mean that everyone understands them in the same way. A developer and a tester may see the functionality of a feature in different ways, which can lead to arguments about whether this is a defect or a FAD (feature as design). To resolve the situation, a tester also turns to a Business Analyst. Their resolution is considered decisive.

The more accurate and understandable a Business Analyst describes the requirements for a product, the fewer mistakes developers and testers will make. This means that they will complete the work faster, the functionality will not have to be redone, and the project budget won’t be wasted.

BATimes_Aug18_2022

 

The role of a Business Analyst in testing

An IT Business Analyst is an authoritative member of a development team, whom QA specialists turn to for advice at any stage of testing. This expert knows the functional and non-functional features of the application being created, so their word on the project is the law. A QA specialist seeks advice from a Business Analyst when conducting:

  • Functional testing. A Business Analyst explains the business logic of the project and points that are incomprehensible to a tester.
  • Regression testing. Based on critical business functions, a Business Analyst advises which test cases to include in this testing phase.
  • Usability testing. For a Business Analyst, it is important that the application is as convenient as possible and has demand in the market. This will allow the customer to evaluate the performance of this expert and their foresight. They also recommend to testers how to improve a particular functionality to increase the quality and value of software solutions.
  • End-to-end testing. To create end-to-end tests, a QA specialist needs to understand an application, its business logic, and user scenarios. In this case, the tester will be able to use the important details for each function: the correct input data, the exact restrictions, the correct sequence of steps, and different ways to call a function.
  • Acceptance testing. A Business Analyst confirms that the product meets the business requirements.
  • Beta testing. IT outsourcing company testers are not involved in this type of testing. In this case, real users work with the application. A Business Analyst observes this process, notes what needs to be improved in the product before its release, and makes sure that the application is really valuable.

 

Conclusion

Thus, a Business Analyst is not just the owner of the requirements on a project or a translator of a customer’s ideas. Any development team needs this expert at every stage of the SDLC, in particular during software testing. Business Analysts are responsible for quality and compliance with requirements, that’s why they participate in many project activities: from the specification of requirements, and approval of test cases to UAT testing control. Only in this case, the planned functions will be correctly implemented, end-users will be satisfied, and the client will receive the desired profit.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Code: Testing Software Requirements

Someone once asked me when you can begin testing software. “As soon as you’ve written your first requirement, you can begin testing,” I replied.

It’s hard to visualize how a system will function by reading some requirements. Tests that are based on requirements make the expected system behaviors more tangible. Even the simple act of designing tests reveals many requirements problems long before you can execute those tests on a running system.

Requirements and Tests

Tests and requirements present complementary views of the system. Creating multiple views of a system—written requirements, diagrams, tests, prototypes, and so forth—provides a much richer understanding of the system than can any single representation. Some agile development methods emphasize writing user acceptance tests from user stories in lieu of writing detailed functional requirements. Thinking about the system from a testing perspective is valuable, but that approach still leaves you with just a single representation of requirements knowledge, so you must trust it to be correct.

Writing black-box (functional) tests crystallizes your vision of how the system should behave under certain conditions. Vague and ambiguous requirements will jump out at you because you won’t be able to describe the expected system response. When business analysts (BAs), developers, and customers walk through tests together, they’ll codify a shared vision of how the product will work and increase their confidence that the requirements are correct.

A personal experience brought home to me the importance of combining test thinking with requirements specification. I once asked my group’s UNIX scripting guru, Charlie, to build a simple e-mail interface extension for a commercial defect-tracking system we had adopted. I wrote a dozen functional requirements that described how the e-mail interface should work. Charlie was thrilled. He’d written many scripts for people, but he’d never seen written requirements before.

Unfortunately, I waited a couple of weeks before I wrote the tests for this e-mail function. Sure enough, I had made an error in one of the requirements. I found the mistake because my mental image of how I expected the function to work, represented in about twenty tests, was inconsistent with one of the requirement. Chagrined, I corrected the defective requirement before Charlie had completed his implementation, and when he delivered the script, it was defect free. It was a small victory, but small victories add up.

Conceptual Tests

You can begin deriving conceptual tests from user requirements early in the development process. Use the tests to evaluate functional requirements, analysis models, and prototypes. The tests should cover the normal flow of each use case, alternative flows, and the exceptions you identified during elicitation and analysis. Similarly, agile acceptance tests should cover both expected behaviors and exceptions.

Consider an application called the Chemical Tracking System. One use case, “View a Stored Order,” let the user retrieve a particular order for a chemical from the database and view its details. Some conceptual tests are:

  • User enters order number to view, order exists, user placed the order. Expected result: show order details.
  • User enters order number to view, order doesn’t exist. Expected result: Display message “Sorry, I can’t find that order.”
  • User enters order number to view, order exists, user didn’t place the order. Expected result: Display message “Sorry, that’s not your order. You can’t view it.”

Ideally, a BA will write the functional requirements and a tester will write the tests from a common starting point, as shown in Figure 1. Ambiguities in the user requirements and differences of interpretation will lead to inconsistencies between the views represented by the functional requirements, models, and tests. Those inconsistencies reveal errors. As developers translate requirements into user interface and technical designs, testers can elaborate the conceptual tests into detailed test procedures.

no code pic 1Figure 1. Development and testing work products derive from a common source.

A Testing Example

Let’s see how the Chemical Tracking System team tied together requirements specification, analysis modeling, and early test-case generation. Here are some pieces of requirements information, all of which relate to the task of requesting a chemical.

Use Case. A use case is “Request a Chemical.” This use case includes a path that permits the user to request a chemical container that’s already available in the chemical stockroom. Here’s the use case descriptionUse Case. A use case is “Request a Chemical.” This use case includes a path that permits the user to request a chemical container that’s already available in the chemical stockroom. Here’s the use case description.

The Requester specifies the desired chemical to request by entering its name or chemical ID number. The system either offers the Requester a container of the chemical from the chemical stockroom or lets the Requester order one from a vendor.


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Functional Requirement. Here’s a bit of functionality associated with this use case:

  1. If the stockroom has containers of the chemical being requested, the system shall display a list of the available containers.⦁ If the stockroom has containers of the chemical being requested, the system shall display a list of the available containers.
  2. The user shall either select one of the displayed containers or ask to place an order for a new container from a vendor.

Dialog Map. Figure 2 illustrates a portion of the dialog map for the “Request a Chemical” use case that pertains to this function. A dialog map is a high-level view of a user interface’s architecture, modeled as a state-transition diagram. The boxes in this dialog map represent user interface displays (dialog boxes in this case), and the arrows represent possible navigation paths from one display to another.

no code pic 2Figure 2. Portion of the dialog map for the “Request a Chemical” use case.Figure 2. Portion of the dialog map for the “Request a Chemical” use case.

Test. Because this use case has several possible execution paths, you can envision numerous tests to address the normal flow, alternative flows, and exceptions. The following is just one test, based on the flow that shows the user the available containers in the chemical stockroom:

At dialog box DB40, enter a valid chemical ID; the chemical stockroom has two containers of this chemical. Dialog box DB50 appears, showing the two containers. Select the second container. DB50 closes and container 2 is added to the bottom of the Current Chemical Request List in dialog box DB70.

Ramesh, the test lead for the Chemical Tracking System, wrote several tests like this one, based on his understanding of how the user might interact with the system to request a chemical. Such abstract tests are independent of implementation details. They don’t describe entering data into specific fields, clicking buttons, or other interaction techniques. As development progresses, the tester can refine these abstract tests into specific test procedures.

Now comes the fun part—testing the requirements. Ramesh first mapped the tests against the functional requirements. He checked to make certain that every test could be “executed” by going through a set of existing requirements. He also made sure that at least one test covered every functional requirement.

Next, Ramesh traced the execution path for every test on the dialog map with a highlighter pen. The yellow line in Figure 3 shows how the preceding test traces onto the dialog map.

no code pic 3Figure 3. Tracing a test onto the dialog map for the “Request a Chemical” use case.

By tracing the execution path for each test on the model, you can find incorrect or missing requirements, improve the user’s navigation options, and refine the tests. Suppose that after “executing” all the tests in this fashion, the navigation line in Figure 2 labeled “order new container” that goes from DB50 to DB60 hasn’t been highlighted. There are two possible interpretations:

  • That navigation isn’t a permitted system behavior. The BA needs to remove that arrow from the dialog map. If you have a requirement that specifies the transition, that requirement also needs to go.
  • The navigation is a legitimate system behavior, but the test that demonstrates the behavior is missing.

When I find such a disconnect, I don’t know which possible interpretation is correct. However, I do know that all of the views of the requirements—textual, models, and tests—must agree, so there’s clearly something wrong.

Suppose that another test states that the user can take some action to move directly from DB40 to DB70. However, the dialog map doesn’t contain such a navigation line, so the test can’t be “executed:” you can’t get there from here. Again, there are two possible interpretations:

  • The navigation from DB40 to DB70 is not a permitted system behavior, so the test is wrong.
  • The navigation from DB40 to DB70 is a legitimate function, but the requirement that allows you to execute the test is missing.

In these examples, the BA and the tester combined requirements, analysis models, and tests to detect missing, erroneous, or unnecessary requirements long before any code was written. Every time I use this technique, I find errors in all the items I’m comparing to each other, quickly and cheaply

As consultant Ross Collard  pointed out, “Use cases and tests work well together in two ways: If the use cases for a system are complete, accurate, and clear, the process of deriving the tests is straightforward. And if the use cases are not in good shape, the attempt to derive tests will help to debug the use cases.” I couldn’t agree more. Conceptual testing of software requirements is a powerful technique for discovering requirement ambiguities and errors early on.

Karl Wiegers is Principal Consultant at Process Impact. He’s the author of numerous books and articles on software development, project management, design, quality, chemistry, military history, and other topics. This article is adapted from Software Requirements, 3rd Edition by Karl Wiegers and Joy Beatty. Karl’s latest book is The Thoughtless Design of Everyday Things.

What Use Case to Use?

The Use Case is a standard tool in the BA toolkit, and like most tools they come in different shapes and sizes for different jobs.

During Business Analysis Planning it is important to identify the appropriate use case format for the project needs.  At the high end we have a multi-page highly regulated requirements template. The base model is a single actor and basic flow.  Between these is the textbook version with complex flows. This article looks at these use case formats and design influences to consider during your Business Analysis Planning.   

Use Case Formats

  • Simple Flow Use Case
  • Complex Flows Use Case
  • Highly Prescribed Use Case

Simple Flow use cases describe the interaction of a single actor along one basic flow.  This format can be used as the starting point for a more complex effort, as a placeholder for planning purposes, or as the final deliverable for a simple project.  This format is similar to a user story, with post conditions instead of benefits. 

Complex Flow use cases include alternate flows, triggers, business rules, post and exit conditions. The degree of complexity should be determined by the stakeholder needs and perspectives.  For business users the documentation must be readable so that they can follow and agree that you have captured their needs correctly.  For the architects and developers, the details must be specific enough to translate into units of development.  For the testing teams the documentation must provide clear inputs and outputs of success so that they can formulate test cases. 

Highly Prescribed use cases have a multi-page template with approved instructions to complete each section.   There are projects which require such discipline,  but I have also worked on projects where the template became the end rather than the means,  and the degree of detail slowed down the project and produced wasteful documentation.  

Design Factors

Use Case formats will be influenced by:

  • Funding model
  • Requirements complexity
  • Rate of change
  • Regulatory environment
  • Project methodology
  • Project phase
  • Build or Buy

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Funding Model

Organizational funding models may impose a need for provide for detailed requirements well in advance of the project development phase, in order to compete for funding.  A use case that identifies all potential steps, alternate flows, business rules and usage estimates can be useful to assist with cost estimates.  Tight funding oversight models will ask for more detailed documentation than open models.

Requirements Complexity

Retail web pages for major sellers can be large and complex because of the product offerings, but the system requirements themselves are repetitive and reusable and changes easily delivered with a user story or simple use case.

A new system with complex requirements needs more detailed documentation than an informational web page.   A new system with many business rules needs detailed documentation and requirements tracing to ensure proper coverage.  Integrated systems need a degree of rigor ad traceability to ensure that front end changes do not break upstream or downstream systems such as integrated re-order or delivery systems. 

Rate of Change

The retail web pages are repetitive but require rapid changes to meet demand and marketing plans. The requirements documentation cannot stand in the way of rapid delivery. 

From another perspective, detailed requirements documentation that can be reviewed in the change management process can help slow down a rush delivery and prevent embarrassing releases.

Regulatory Environment

Systems that are governed by external regulations need detailed requirements documentation that can be read and understood by multiple stakeholders so that all affected parties are able to understand and approve the inputs and outputs of the system to be delivered.  Systems that collect personal information must be able to demonstrate that the correct information is being captured and the appropriate security will be in place to protect this information from misuse.

Project Methodology

Waterfall projects tend to require detailed requirements. Agile projects prefer minimal documentation, user stories, and simple use cases if any.  

Project Phase

Documentation detail may expand or contract during the project phases.  As discussed above, projects may require detailed requirements documentation for early feasibility and cost analysis exercise, but they may then drop down to user stories for the development and delivery.  Other projects may require only simple use cases to outline a concept, and then expand on the use case flows and details during the requirements phase.

Build or Buy

If the project includes a build or buy decision, then a simple use case format that can be transferrable to a matrix of acceptance and evaluation criteria will be most useful when comparing solution options. 

Summary

Use Cases are a valuable business analysis tool that come in multiple flavors.  As part of the Business Analysis Planning step the Business Analyst should identify the degree of rigor and detail that the project and the stakeholders require and select the appropriate use case format(s) to use during the project.