Home > Articles > Programming

The Life Cycle of a Use Case

📄 Contents

  1. The Software Development Live Cycle
  2. The Authoring Live Cycle
  3. Summary
Learn how well-formed, good quality use cases can drive and facilitate the other, downstream software development activities.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

So far, we have seen the basic concepts behind the use-case modeling approach to eliciting and capturing software requirements and looked at how to get started in applying them. Before we look at the mechanics of authoring full use-case descriptions, we need to have a better understanding of the life cycle of a use case and how well-formed, good quality use cases can drive and facilitate the other, downstream software development activities. We also need to put what we have learned into a broader perspective with regard to software development and team working.

Use cases have a complex life cycle—they undergo a series of transformations as they mature through a number of development stages, from discovery to implementation and eventually to user acceptance. One way that this life cycle manifests itself is in the style and form adopted for the use-case descriptions. To speak of a single way of representing a use case is to miss the point—there are different presentation approaches and styles that are useful at different points in the use case's evolution. There is no one single form that is "better" in the absolute sense; they all play a role. This is why you will often see use cases expressed in different formats by different authors in different use-case texts.

Use cases also play a broader role, outside of the requirements space, in driving the analysis, design, implementation, and testing of the system. This is why you will also read about use cases being realized in design and tested by testers. Sometimes the use cases are so embedded in the design process of the system that the impression is given that the use cases are a development artifact rather than a requirements one. This misconception often leads to developers trying to manipulate the use-case model in a misguided attempt to design the system using use cases.

To fully understand the role and purpose of use cases, and consequently the most appropriate form to use, we need to look at the life cycle of a use case from a number of different but complementary perspectives:

  • Software development: how the use case is reflected throughout the full software development life cycle

  • Use-case authoring: how the use case and its description evolves through the authoring process

  • Team working: the activities involved in creating a use case model and how these impact on team and individual working practices

The Software Development Live Cycle

As well as facilitating the elicitation, organization, and documentation of requirements, use cases can play a more central and significant role in the software development life cycle. This is especially true for many of the object-oriented and iterative development processes for which use cases are recommended.

From a traditional object-oriented system model, it's often difficult to tell how a system does what it's supposed to do. This difficulty stems from the lack of a "red thread" through the system when it performs certain tasks.1 Use cases can provide that thread because they define the behavior performed by a system. Use cases are not part of traditional object orientation, but over time their importance to object-oriented methods has become ever more apparent. This is further emphasized by the fact that use cases are part of the Unified Modeling Language.

In fact, many software development processes, including the Rational Unified Process, describe themselves as "use-case driven."2 When a process employs a "use-case driven approach" it means that the use cases defined for a system are the basis for the entire development process. In these cases the life cycle of the use case continues beyond its authoring to cover activities such as analysis, design, implementation, and testing. This life cycle is shown, in simplified form, in Figure 6-1. Figure 6-1 is arranged to emphasize the three main applications for the use cases:

Figure 6-1Figure 6-1 The software development life cycle*

  • Requirements: the identification, authoring and agreement of the use cases and their descriptions for use as a requirement specification. This is the focus of this book.

  • Development: the analysis, design, and implementation of a system based on the use cases. This topic is outside the scope of this book.3

  • Testing: the use-case-based verification and acceptance of the system produced. Again, the details of how to undertake use-case-based testing is outside the scope of this book.

It is this ability of use cases to unify the development activities that makes them such a powerful tool for the planning and tracking of software development projects.4 To fully understand the power of use cases, it is worth considering this life cycle in a little more detail. Use cases can play a part in the majority of the disciplines directly associated with software development.

  • Requirements: The use-case model is the result of the requirements discipline. Requirements work matures the use cases through the first three states, from Identified to Agreed. It also evolves the glossary, or domain model, that defines the terminology used by the use cases and the Supplementary Specification that contains the systemwide requirements not captured by the use-case model.

  • Analysis and Design: Use cases are realized in analysis and design models. Use-case realizations are created that describe how the use cases are performed in terms of interacting objects in the model. This model describes, in terms of subsystems and objects, the different parts of the implemented system and how the parts need to interact to perform the use cases. Analysis and design of the use cases matures them through the states of Analyzed and Designed. These states do not change the description of the use cases, but indicate that the use cases have been realized in the analysis and design of the system.

  • Implementation (also known as code and unit test or code and build): During implementation, the design model is the implementation speci-fication. Because use cases are the basis for the design model, they are implemented in terms of design classes. Once the code has been written to enable a use case to be executed, it can be considered to be in the Implemented state.

  • Testing: During testing, the use cases constitute the basis for identifying test cases and test procedures; that is, the system is verified by performing each use case. When the tests related to a use case have been successfully passed by the system, the use case can be considered to be in the Verified state. The Accepted state is reached when a version of the system that implements the use case passes independent user-acceptance testing. Note: If the system is being developed in an incremental fashion, the use cases need to be verified for each release that implements them.

These relationships are directly reflected in the life cycle of the use case just described and are illustrated in Figure 6-2.

Figure 6-2Figure 6-2 The use-case model and its relationship to the other software development models

Use cases can also help with the supporting disciplines, although these do not impact upon the life cycle of the use cases themselves:

  • Project Management: In the project management discipline, use cases are used as a basis for planning and tracking the progress of the development project. This is particularly true for iterative development where use cases are often the primary planning mechanism.

  • Deployment: In the deployment discipline, use cases are the foundation for what is described in user's manuals. Use cases can also be used to define how to order units of the product. For example, a customer could order a system configured with a particular mix of use cases.

Although primarily a requirement-capture technique, use cases have a significant role to play in the ongoing planning, control, development, and testing of the system. It is this unification of the software development process that makes use cases such a powerful technique. To get the full benefit of using use cases, they should be placed at the heart of all the software development and project planning activities.5

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020