An alternative to formal work process analysis is the identification of user scenarios. A user scenario consists of two components: a set of one or more user profiles, which identify the various types of users of the proposed system, and usage scenarios for each user profile, which are narrative descriptions of the way the user is expected to interact with the proposed systemthe activities he or she is expected to perform.
Although user scenarios can be used to capture the same information as a work process analysis, user scenarios tend to focus more on the ways users interact with the proposed system rather than on the specific steps of a transaction. Because of this focus on user interaction, it can sometimes be difficult to prepare a user scenario that doesn't anticipate the user interface of the system.
The intention, however, is to focus on users' goals and expectations, and as such, the user scenario is particularly useful for systems that must support a variety of ad hoc activities. It allows the analyst to focus on the kinds of tasks users need to perform without getting bogged down in the mechanics of processes that have not yet been defined.
For example, even the rather simple scenario "Sales representatives will use the system to track the status of their customers' orders through each of the phases of the process, from initial entry through shipping, invoicing, and eventual payment" adequately explains how this user group will interact with the system. But it does so without forcing any decisions to be made regarding the detailed functionality of the user interface.
The development of user scenarios and work process analyses are not, of course, mutually exclusive. Work process analyses are a useful tool for thinking about the processes themselves, while user scenarios allow the designer to focus on how each type of user will interact with the system. For most systems, these are equally important issues. When the project is large enough to warrant the effort, it is certainly worthwhile to perform both types of analysis, particularly since user scenarios can generally be based on the information gained during the work process analysis without additional interviewing or analysis.