Information – Kind of vs Form of

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

When working on a project, you want to consider what kind of information you have, and what form is the best for documenting that information. These are two different things. A use case is a form of documentation that can be used for a variety of purposes. Sometimes a use case represents requirements, and sometimes it does not. So do not confuse the kind of information with the structure or form of the information.

Sometimes the easiest thing to do at first is to think of everything as information. As you collect and categorize information, you can decide which things represent requirements of the solution, and which things are other kinds of information. Often when I start a project, I am not sure what I have at first. I’ll collect a lot of information, then I will start to see patterns and categories to that information. As I structure the information into these patterns and categories, the process helps me to determine which things are requirements and which are other kinds of information. After that, I decide what form of documentation to use to communicate that information. I start with the information first, then I decide how to structure that information, what forms to put it in.

A number of companies I have worked for were very focused on use cases. Everything was a use case, the only requirements they had were use cases. But this was causing problems, because all the requirements were not use cases, and they were using use cases for purposes other than requirements. Needless to say, people at these companies were very confused. So instead of focusing on how the requirements were structured (use cases), I focused everyone on the kind of information they were collecting. This information represents context or scope, but that information looks like future state. Once I had determined what kind of information they had, then I guided them to appropriate forms of documentation. I did have use cases for both context and requirements, and I had other kinds of requirements documents as well. This approach cleared up a lot of confusion at those companies.

I have used state machines for analysis and for detailed design. I have used use cases and activity diagrams for context as well as for requirements. A component diagram can represent a logical or a physical model. If you know what kind of information you have, you can make a separate decision about the form you use to communicate that information. Typically the form you use will depend on the audience (or consumers) of the information.

Here are some ideas of what I think of as kinds of information vs forms of information. You may not completely agree with the two lists, but I hope they lead you to thinking about the kinds of information as being separate from the forms of information.

Kinds of information

  • Context
  • Scope
  • Problems
  • Solutions
  • Requirements
  • Future State
  • Needs
  • Wants
  • Dreams
  • Wishes
  • Constraints
  • Limitations
  • Risks
  • Technology
  • Bug Reports
  • Feature Requests

Forms of information

  • Use Cases
  • Shall Statements
  • Test Cases
  • User Stories
  • Scenarios
  • User Interface Designs
  • Wireframes
  • FURPS
  • Prototypes
  • Flow charts
  • Activity diagrams
  • State machines
  • Truth tables
  • Report Specifications
  • Data Dictionaries
  • Data Models
  • Domain Models
  • Object Models
  • Business Requirements
  • Business Rules

 

Do you see that kind of information and form you put it in are two different things? What kinds of information do you work with? What forms of information do you work with?

 

One thought on “Information – Kind of vs Form of

  1. Michael Larsen

    Nice article Geri. I am wondering Geri what Kind information goes with the appropriate Form of information where do you put wishes, dreams and risks into what Form of information.

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