Skip to main content

Alternative to CRUD

So if CRUD use cases don't belong in requirements documents, what use cases do you include in their place?

First, I should reiterate that CRUD use cases may still be appropriate outside of a requirements document, such as in a design specification. As I've mentioned, once a use case author begins fleshing out text use cases with steps, she is engaging in design, anyway.

Second, when a product manager is tempted to include CRUD in a requirements document, he should instead specify the user's larger goal. Presumably, information somehow needs to get into the system and stay up to date. Why? What does having that information enable the system to do for the user? An example of a larger goal is Generate Periodic Financial Reports. In that example, the user doesn't want to enter information; she just wants her reports!

The product manager still has to capture nonfunctional requirements relating to the accuracy and timeliness of information in the system. A useful approach is to have the use cases represent on-going, end-to-end processes instead of discrete tasks the user performs. That way they encompass the nonfunctional requirements and any data administration that product designers decide to include in their design.

For example, consider a Pay Employees use case that encompasses not just one round of payroll, but the process of paying employees during the lifetime of the company. Such a process contends with the hiring and firing of employees, and changes to employee titles, salaries, and marital status. Attach nonfunctional requirements to the use case that constrain the accuracy and timeliness of the information and limit the amount of time and effort users are engaged in carrying out the process (including the administration of information).


Scott Sehlhorst said…
Definitely some great ideas about keeping requirements at a higher (more appropriate) level. I've struggled to put this in practice in some circumstances. Here's an example of how I did it - which I think is aligned with what you suggest, but if not, would love to know how you would propose doing it differently.

On a large project with a portion of the team having no experience at developing enterprise software, the developers needed someone to point out that CRUD was required in order to enable valuable use cases.

Unquestionably, the CRUD needed to be in the system. Definitely, someone needed to tell the implementation team about what CRUD was needed, and how it needed to work (user ACL, etc).

I chose the approach of identifying a "manage accounts" use case (with a system administrator as the actor). Then subordinate use cases to represent the CRUD were defined using composition.

This aggregating use case was then traced to the valuable use cases, to show the dependencies.

With a global team structure, how would you propose communicating the expectation that CRUD exist, if not using a portion of the requirements doc to do it?
Roger L. Cauvin said…
Scott, I think your idea about "composition" is part of the solution.

As my post suggests, I would express the larger functional requirement as an on-going, end-to-end use case. (I would just give the name of the use case, the actor, and any needed explanation. A use case diagram with notes often suffices) Then I would attach constraints to that functional requirement.

If I considered it important to convey the fact that CRUD-style administration would likely be part of the design, I would depict some use case "composition". For example, I might show that the Pay Employees use case includes a Manage Payroll use case, which in turn includes CRUD use cases. But I would explicitly label these lower-level use cases - and the <<include>> relationships - as a design example or suggestion.

Ideally, a product designer or architect documents these use cases instead.

Popular posts from this blog

What Product Managers Can Learn from the Apple iPod

The Story When Apple unveiled its iPod digital music player back in October 2001, I dismissed it as a  parity product . I already owned the Cowon iAUDIO CW100 MP3 player, loaded with my favorite tunes. There was Apple, generating great hype over the iPod as if it were a breakthrough product. The idea of a portable digital music player was nothing new. The first mass-produced MP3 players came out in 1998. In late 2001, the concept may have been new to a lot of Apple customers, but it wasn't new to me. I proudly showed my MP3 player to friends when they gushed about the iPod. Thus Apple's iPod was not an innovative product in and of itself. Years later, however, I realized the significance of ecosystem of which the iPod was a part. Apple had released iTunes (with technology purchased from  SoundJam MP ) and created the iTunes Store for finding and downloading music. Unlike Napster , it was a safe and legal way of distributing and acquiring music. The prior way of playing

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Interaction Design: the Neglected Skill

Your product development organization has a big, gaping hole in it. (Be prepared to feel defensive as you continue reading.) One of the most important roles in product development is the role of interaction designer. An interaction designer designs how the users will interact with the product and conceptualize the tasks they perform. He decides whether, for example, the user interface will be command driven, object oriented (clicking on objects then specifying what to do with them), or wizard based. The interaction designer decides the individual steps in the use cases. Every company has one or more people that play the interaction designer role. Usually, those people have little or no expertise in interaction design. Sadly, they typically don't even realize how unqualified they are. Let's see who typically plays the role at companies. Engineer . An engineer is an expert on building what is designed. Yes, an engineer may know how to design the internal structure of the hardware