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Critical things project managers need to know about use cases 8 min read
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When you get into your car, you’ve got a destination in mind and, if you’re unsure how to get there, you’ll likely use a GPS as a guide. Prior to the existence of GPS, most people used paper maps to plot their routes. As technology evolved, the weaknesses and flaws of paper maps became all too apparent. Through use cases, businesses combined customers’ needs with the latest technology to create GPS and redefine the process of traveling to an unfamiliar location.

You can utilize use cases to create new technologies or redefine old processes by providing a thorough understanding of how all stakeholders (called “actors”) interact with a current process. While use cases are most often used in IT departments for software development, they can be valuable assets to project managers. Today we’ll discuss some of the most critical things project managers need to know about use cases and share how can help you apply that knowledge efficiently.

What is a use case?

Simply put, a use case is a detailed description of how a system and actors interact. For use cases, an actor is defined as any person, role, or technology that interacts with the system. The system can be an actual technological system, software, or platform, but it can also be a set process within a business, like how food is delivered to customers via waiters.

The use case will define all the possible ways the system and actors can interact.

Using use cases to set up your project scope

Although use cases are most often used to define software requirements, you can apply them to project management to help set up your scope. In this scenario, when you write a use case, your system will likely be a business process you hope to refine, improve, or implement.

Begin by defining your process’s functional requirements and basic flow with a use case diagram. These diagrams use unified modeling language as a way to quickly and efficiently outline interactions. Generally, they will have interactions inside a clearly defined box that are connected to representations of actors outside the box. For example, if you’re trying to improve your HR process, actors could include HR professionals, company executives, and general employees. Interactions with the HR professional may include problem-solving or benefits management.

After creating a basic use case, project managers can conduct a thorough analysis and design ways to improve the current process. Case modeling also provides help with both the planning and execution phases of project management.

How use cases can help project managers with project planning and execution

Defining pre- and post-conditions is a crucial part of developing use cases because they provide vital information such as:

  • What must be done before an interaction can happen. For example, before a customer can order an item through the drive-through, they must drive their car into the designated lane and view the menu.
  • What optional interactions might exist. What happens if a customer forgets to order a drink and decides to add it to their order at the pick-up window instead?

Understanding these conditions can help with project planning and execution by preparing your team for potential setbacks. When you already know what roadblocks might occur within your project’s scope, you can create a plan ahead of time to mitigate any risks associated with potential roadblocks.

Benefits and limitations of use cases in project management

For project managers, use cases provide several key benefits, such as:

  • Managing complexity in projects: Projects involve many moving parts, which quickly become complicated and overwhelming. Use cases help manage this complexity by clearly defining expectations regarding outcomes, resource allocation, and potential roadblocks. When you know what to expect, you can feel confident managing the many moving parts of a given project.
  • Have basic groundwork set up pre-project: If you’ve outlined a detailed use case diagram, you’ll already have the basic groundwork for your upcoming project. This simplifies the launch process and can even help you exceed expectations or deadlines.
  • Predefine basic requirements and needs: By utilizing a use case in project management, you can ensure all basic requirements, needs, and expectations are laid out ahead of time. Ensuring basic requirements are predefined helps guide team members towards realistic goals from day one.

You can’t always predict every interaction or outcome, and that is a significant limitation to use case studies. Unexpected roadblocks or unforeseen events can leave you blindsided, but proper risk mitigation methods should help to reduce the risks associated with roadblocks or bottlenecks.

Use case example: The drive-through

To improve their customers’ drive-through experience, a fast food chain designs a use case study to improve their process. They find that the following interactions occur between the system and actors:

  • A customer drives up to the drive-through and looks at the menu before ordering.
  • A customer orders their food by letting the cashier know what they want via the speaker system.
  • A cashier types in the customer’s food order into the point-of-sale system.
  • A cook prepares the food.
  • A customer drives to the window to pay for their food.
  • A cashier or other employee hands the customer their food.
  • The customer takes the food and drives away.

Using this case study, the fast food chain realizes it can reduce wait times by having two separate windows, one for paying and one for receiving. The result is reduced wait time for customers before reaching a window and an efficient split of the workload between more workers.

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Use case and

Creating a use case diagram and implementing what you’ve learned is easy with You can use our project management software and Work OS to:

  • Simplify the use case process: From start to finish, our Work OS simplifies the use case process by providing a central workplace for all team members. This central workplace can seamlessly handle the project during execution.
  • View and compare the information you need most: Customizable dashboards make it easy to track, view, and compare the information you need most to outline your case study. Having all applicable information at a glance allows you to be more efficient and organized in your use case, making you less likely to forget critical details.
  • Integrate with your favorite tools: Have a favorite tool you use to help with your use cases? integrates with numerous tools, so you don’t have to switch platforms to complete your Work.
  • Outline and track project progress: Use Kanban boards to outline and track your progress through the use case creation, into your project, up to completion.
  • Organize and track your critical documents: Our workdocs let you organize and track your critical documents from one storage site. Easily find what you need, and print or email that information as needed.

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Frequently asked questions about use cases

What is an essential use case?

An essential use case defines the most basic functions a system must do to fulfill its user’s goals. Instead of looking at all the potential use cases, an essential use case only looks at the necessary ones.

Why are use cases important?

Use cases are important because they explain system behavioral expectations and identify any issues, errors, or roadblocks with that process. They can also provide a list of goals that you can use to establish the cost or complexity of the system.

How do you write a use case?

To write a case study, you need to:

  1. Identify who the “actor” is that will be interacting with the system
  2. Define the end goal of that user
  3. Determine what the normal course of events will be for the user to achieve that goal
  4. Decide the interactions that could likely be taken and outline them
  5. Consider alternative possibilities and add them as “extended” use cases
  6. Repeat steps one through five for every actor that may use the system

Simplify use cases for better results on

Use cases allow project managers to define their project’s scope and create better outcomes by offering a thorough understanding of expectations during the project’s course. Using to develop use cases and manage associated projects can help reduce complexity and improve efficiency across the board.

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