A Class Responsibility Collaborator
(CRC) model (Beck & Cunningham 1989; Wilkinson 1995;
Ambler 1995) is a collection of standard index
cards that have been divided into three sections, as
depicted in Figure 1.
A class represents a collection of similar objects, a
responsibility is something that a class knows or does,
and a collaborator is another class that a class
interacts with to fulfill its responsibilities.
presents an example of two hand-drawn CRC cards.
Figure 1. CRC Card
Hand-drawn CRC Cards.
Although CRC cards were originally
introduced as a technique for teaching object-oriented
concepts, they have also been successfully used as a
full-fledged modeling technique. My experience is that
CRC models are an incredibly effective tool for
conceptual modeling as well as for detailed design. CRC
cards feature prominently in eXtreme Programming (XP) (Beck
2000) as a design technique. My focus here is on
applying CRC cards for conceptual modeling with your
A class represents a collection of
similar objects. An object is a person, place, thing,
event, or concept that is relevant to the system at
hand. For example, in a university system, classes would
represent students, tenured professors, and seminars.
The name of the class appears across the top of a CRC
card and is typically a singular noun or singular noun
phrase, such as Student, Professor, and
Seminar. You use singular names because each class
represents a generalized version of a singular object.
Although there may be the student John O’Brien, you
would model the class Student. The information
about a student describes a single person, not a group
of people. Therefore, it makes sense to use the name
Student and not Students. Class names should
also be simple. For example, which name is better:
Student or Person who takes seminars?
A responsibility is anything that a
class knows or does. For example, students have names,
addresses, and phone numbers. These are the things a
student knows. Students also enroll in seminars, drop
seminars, and request transcripts. These are the things
a student does. The things a class knows and does
constitute its responsibilities. Important: A class is
able to change the values of the things it knows, but it
is unable to change the values of what other classes
Sometimes a class has a
responsibility to fulfill, but not have enough
information to do it. For example, as you see in
Figure 3 students
enroll in seminars. To do this, a student needs to know
if a spot is available in the seminar and, if so, he
then needs to be added to the seminar. However, students
only have information about themselves (their names and
so forth), and not about seminars. What the student
needs to do is collaborate/interact with the card
labeled Seminar to sign up for a seminar.
Therefore, Seminar is included in the list of
collaborators of Student.
Figure 3. Student
Collaboration takes one of two
forms: A request for information or a request to do
something. For example, the card Student requests
an indication from the card Seminar whether a
space is available, a request for information.
Student then requests to be added to the Seminar,
a request to do something. Another way to perform this
logic, however, would have been to have Student
simply request Seminar to enroll himself into
itself. Then have Seminar do the work of
determining if a seat is available and, if so, then
enrolling the student and, if not, then informing the
student that he was not enrolled.
So how do you create CRC models?
Iteratively perform the following steps:
Finding classes is fundamentally an analysis task
because it deals with identifying the building blocks
for your application. A good rule of thumb is that you
should look for the three-to-five main classes right
away, such as Student, Seminar, and
Professor in Figure 4.
I will sometimes include UI classes such as
Transcript and Student Schedule, both are
reports, although others will stick to just entity
classes. Also, I'll sometimes include cards
representing actors when my stakeholders are
struggling with the concept of a student in the real
world (the actor) versus the student in the system
responsibilities. You should ask yourself
what a class does as well as what information you wish
to maintain about it. You will often identify a
responsibility for a class to fulfill a collaboration
with another class.
collaborators. A class often does not have
sufficient information to fulfill its
responsibilities. Therefore, it must collaborate
(work) with other classes to get the job done.
Collaboration will be in one of two forms: a request
for information or a request to perform a task.
To identify the collaborators of a class for each
responsibility ask yourself "does the class have the
ability to fulfill this responsibility?". If not
then look for a class that either has the ability to
fulfill the missing functionality or the class which
should fulfill it. In doing so you'll often
discover the need for new responsibilities in other
classes and maybe even the need for a new class or
Move the cards
around. To improve everyone’s understanding of the
system, the cards should be placed on the table in an
intelligent manner. Two cards that collaborate with
one another should be placed close together on the
table, whereas two cards that don’t collaborate should
be placed far apart. Furthermore, the more two cards
collaborate, the closer they should be on the desk. By
having cards that collaborate with one another close
together, it’s easier to understand the relationships
Figure 4. CRC Model.
How do you keep your CRC modeling efforts agile?
By following the AM practice
Model in Small Increments. The best way to do
this is to create a CRC model for a single requirement,
such as a
business rule, or
system use case, instead of the entire collection of
requirements for your system. Because CRC cards
are very simple tools they are inclusive, enabling you
to follow AM's
Active Stakeholder Participation practice.
It's important to recognize that a CRC model isn’t
carved in stone. When you evolve it into a
UML class diagram, or perhaps straight into code,
you’ll change the schema over time. Responsibilities
will be reorganized, new classes will be introduced,
existing classes will disappear, and so on. This is
what happens when you take an evolutionary approach to
This artifact description is excerpted from Chapter 8 of
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