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Use Case

A Use Case specifies a distinct set of business requirements --- ideally but not necessarily captured as an "executable model" --- resulting in a specific business outcome.

It starts with ideas for use cases that could come from any person in the organization at any point in time. We want to capture all these ideas (and as much of the knowledge behind those ideas) and create one data structure for it that we call "the Use Case Tree" because it looks like an inverted tree: it's something that starts on a whiteboard, showing a break-down of a component of the business into smaller components.

Anyone should be able to contribute ideas that may or may not end up as fully implemented use cases to end up in the organization's Use Case Tree, whether they are viable or not. If an idea for a given use case is rejected then show the rationale for that to everyone so that everyone can learn, and we're not wasting anyones time on that idea again. Let people contribute. All knowledge workers, all specialist users, data architects, technical architects, ontologists, end users, business executives, literally anyone should be allowed to understand:

  • What's our business identity? Our mission and strategy? What do we all this for (besides being profitable), what are the long term objectives that we are going to achieve?
  • How does that map to our current and future data and technology landscape?
    • (without becoming too technical or detailed, we want everyone to be able to chip in)
  • Assess all our organization's capabalities, as specified in the Maturity Model for the Enterprise Knowledge Graph (EKG/Maturity) related to our own EKG and how they match with our ambitions to implement our strategic use cases?
  • How does our "technical debt" fit in? (identify the functionality of our technical debt as use cases in the tree as well)
    • How are we going to "rationalize" our current siloed landscape (and technical debt)?
  • What are the short and long term priorities?
  • What are the milestones and the roadmap? (see "Chart")
  • Which ideas (for use cases) have been proposed, considered approved or rejected and why?

The term "use case" means something specific to a technical audience who usually assume that the term use case means what the Object Management Group (OMG) defines what it is in their Unified Modeling Language (UML) and its "use case diagrams".

Although there are many similarities and overlap --- which is why we are repurposing the term --- it is not exactly the same, in our Use Case Tree Method:

  • use cases often are used a much broader and more abstract container concept --- compared to a UML Use Case --- that can be put in a "tree structure" where at the highest levels of these trees a use case can represent a capability domain or a "strategic use case" --- or basically anything that fits well with the business.
  • at the lowest levels in this tree we would end up with use cases that are much more like turn-key components for the EKG, 100% reusable delivering "no code"-functionality2.

For every Use Case we specify:

  • A name and a description
  • The desired or expected business outcome(s) and how they can be measured
  • The "personas" of all the people and systems that are involved in the domain or scope represented by the Use Case
  • The concepts and their terms as they're used in the context of the Use Case

At a later stage in the life-cycle of the Use Case we add:

  • The stories, see Story
  • The datasets and their ontologies
  • The workflows

Specialists of various disciplines in the organization can add their details such as:

  • detailed business rationale, tied to the before-mentioned business outcomes
  • milestones, versions, projects, timelines, roadmaps, budgets
  • issues, tickets
  • environment topologies, deployments and configurations
  • detailed information about the various types of dependencies

Each individual Use Case itself goes through a life-cycle of continuous improvement like:1


The EKG/Method defines a process that consists of three phases where each phase has well-defined "steps": Plan, Build and Run. The common artifact across each of these phases---and most of their steps---is the Use Case Tree where certain information is relevant to that phase for each of its Use Cases:

  • Plan Phase

    1. Name + Business Description
    2. Desired Business Outcomes
      • Definition of Success
    3. Personas, Concepts & Terms
      • Add examples i.e. input for test scenarios
    4. Stories & Workflows
      • High level but agreed, metrics based estimates
    5. Tree Structure
      • Break-down into---existing or non-existing---sub-use cases (some of which are reusable and some of which are specific to the parent use case)
      • Priority is to look up in the tree, not down, and define the longer term “strategic use cases” as well

    Learn more about the Discover Step

  • 🏗 Build Phase

    1. Datasets
    2. Ontologies
      • map the given Concepts to the right Ontologies
    3. Test scenarios
      • define test-datasets and test-scenarios for each Story
      • provision continuous integration pipelines for continuous automated testing
      • ensure 100% test coverage across all stories
    4. Story-implementation details
      • all optional -- e.g. SPARQL, SHACL, SQL, workflow, audit, history, provenance, entitlements, caching policies, etc
    5. Metrics
      • function point or story point-like metrics
      • lead / cycle time metrics
      • predict cost & delivery
      • based on metrics of previous use cases

    Learn more

  • Run Phase

    Additional detail added after deployment.

    Learn more

  1. the life-cycle diagram shown is obviously a simplification 

  2. No-code or Low-code development allows non-programmers to create applications without hard-wiring business logic with a programming language