Thursday, September 4, 2014

UML Documentation: diagramming an existing application

I began creating diagrams of a system today that has very minimal diagrammatic documentation. There are many word written, but any person who is new to the system would have a high learning curve in order to get caught up.

The diagrams are the beginning of the development design and planning phase of a project. I will be working with a new developer, albeit far more experienced than I am, on this project. I worked on this application during a previous project and have been supporting it as well.

For some time I have had the goal of learning documentation techniques. Recently, I watched a PluralSight  training video titles "Introduction to UML". I took studious notes and am now putting the new knowledge into practice. I have no guide, so I'm certain to make mistakes, but perhaps it is better to get that sorted out now so that I can begin to improve.

I started on paper, then using Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 I created a Modelling project in the TFS Team Project folder that contained the application. I added a Use Case diagram and transferred (by re-creating) the core use cases into a single usecasediagram. Next, I created a high level component diagram of the whole system - which has several moving pieces.

This takes a bit of time, but not much. I was especially efficient since I was able to reference my notes and having gained much better understanding from the video. I saw a previous diagram of mine and recall how long that took to produce because I had no idea wtf I was doing. Now I have at least some frame of reference.

Still, that crappy diagram was useful enough to convey much about the system to a BA who had not yet worked with that system. Without the diagram, it would have been really difficult to communicate about all the moving pieces.

When the new developer is on the project I'm hoping that there will be a similar experience in terms of being able to communicate with the aide of the diagrams I produce. I liken them to having maps when dropped in the middle of a forest. Now all we need in a compass, better yet - GPS!

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