The power of Visual Thinking: combining Use Cases Diagrams with User Stories technique
Edwards Deming and Walter Shewhart, the founders of Quality, have always focused on visual tools they created like control charts and PDCA Wheel or tools by japeneses like Ishikawa diagram or Kanban board. Agile has promoted scrum/kanban board which is good but as for user stories themselves, visual tools are completely lacking.
Though User Stories are good to help User elicitate their needs, it would be very usefull to help them reassess their thinking during the feedback phase thanks to UML Use Case Diagrams. UML diagrams didn’t get good press because used by pure technicians, they tend to be cluttered with a bunch of low level details. Moreover UML class diagrams tend to be exclusively – because they ressemble so much Java Class Diagrams – instead of Use Case Diagrams.
I admit that UML Tools today are not very sexy for Users, that’s why I myself don’t use them when preparing a presentation to Business. Instead I would use Microsoft Powerpoint to draw Use Case Diagrams myself. This is a sample I made for some past project after an interview session with Users (I didn’t draw in front of them, I used classical user stories Interview technique in the first phase, it’s only in feedback phase that I presented them these diagrams):
For that application, I had even combined these use case diagrams with a navigation prototype in Microsoft Access to validate the workflow … in the end Users said “Hey that’s so sexy, could we have that kind of menus in final” ? I had to answer “no this is not the real GUI you’ll get from the developers”: this just to prove UML Use Cases can really help Users convey and reassess their ideas if you want to.