The Business Analysts Guide To Facilitating a Successful Requirement Elicitation Workshop
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
One of the methods a Business Analyst (BA) will use to elicit requirements from stakeholder is by organising and facilitating a requirement workshop. A workshop presents an opportunity for the BA to clarify information, resolve outstanding issues, drill down into business requirements and many more. It also gives the project team an opportunity to be together in the same place to discuss important requirements and table any differences of opinion regarding a requirement, decision or a business process.
I have found that facilitating a requirement elicitation workshop, saves me from countless hours of one-to-one interviews (nothing wrong with interviews) and sometimes, the delays in arriving at a decision, when you need different stakeholders to agree on a topic. However, BAs need to ensure that when using a workshop to elicit requirements, it is done properly, so that you don’t waste people’s time, you get a positive outcome from the workshop and you (as well as other attendees) feel like you all made progress.
So below are the techniques I have used to organise successful workshops and they work for me every time.
1. Map out the objectives of the workshop
“You need to begin with the end in mind”; as cliché as this may sound, it is actually highly recommended when planning your workshop. You should aim to map out what you expect to get out of the workshop; is it to clarify a process, agree on the business rules, drill down into a requirement or anything else relating to the project? By defining upfront, the objective(s) of the workshop, it will help you and the stakeholders or attendees to understand why they are being invited to a workshop.
2. Identify who needs to be invited
You want to set yourself and the workshop up for success. To make this happen, you need to clearly identify who would provide the most value to your cause. You expect stakeholders to be able to participate in the workshop and not feel like their time could have been better spent doing something else. By identifying the right people to invite upfront, and spelling out the expectation, your workshop will benefit from a highly engaging stakeholder, and it will end with successful outcomes.
3. Have an Agenda with timelines for each activity
It is important that you send out an agenda ahead of the meeting because it will give your stakeholders enough time to plan their own schedule; use the agenda to set the expectations for the workshop. Help the stakeholders to come fully prepared by highlighting topics that will be addressed, and the duration of the workshop. I usually have a timeline set for each topic (or activities), so that stakeholders know in advance where and how we will aim to spend our time. Unfortunately, I have experienced situations where some stakeholders don’t read the agenda or they delegate the attendance to someone who is not fully informed on the project, so you need to keep this curveball in mind when organising a workshop.
4. Facilitate the workshop
You should aim to arrive at the venue of the workshop early with all the necessary materials you can find to help ensure you and your stakeholders have a great experience. Check all the facilities because computers, projectors and other equipment have a way of disappointing at the last minute. Some of the tools you may need include sticky notes, coloured pens, whiteboard, brown cardboards, handouts, writing materials, presentation slides and so on. You also want to set the rules for the day, to keep people on track, to avoid distractions, and to ensure stakeholders remain professional. During the workshop, you want to make sure the conversations go as planned and on track by using the topics on the agenda.
Sometimes, the discussions can become very engaging and you may find that you are running out to time, at this point, you may want to park that discussion and come back to it, if you still have enough time, after covering all your topics. As a facilitator, you want to be as focused and as attentive as possible, dealing with conflicts, ensuring there is a resolution to any open issue(s). You also want to encourage participation amongst stakeholders, asks probing and open-ended questions to elicit more information from stakeholders and add activities that encourage creative thinking or brainstorming of ideas.
Also, you want to ensure you have a junior BA or someone else around to take notes; it is not always advisable to do both at the same time. However, in some situations, you may have to improvise because you will be the only BA facilitating the workshop and taking notes. In such a situation, you will need to summarise important discussions with action points to send out after the workshop
5. Follow up after the workshop
At the end of the workshop, although not compulsory, you want to find out from the stakeholders (or attendees), how they felt about the workshop and if there's anything you can do to make the next workshop better. What I usually do after every workshop (or within 48 hours), and I recommend you do the same, is to send out minutes of the meeting, with action point and tasks assigned to stakeholders. I also ask all attendees to correct any errors or include any points I may have missed out.
I include tentative dates for any agreed face to face meetings and potential dates for a follow-up session. If follow up workshops are required (which is usually the case), I rinse and repeat the whole process again, and ensure I have a great time facilitating the workshops.
These are the steps I have used time and time again to successfully facilitate and lead various workshops. It is the same steps I have taught to my students and they have also had great results. However, if you have other facilitation techniques that work for you, keep using them and feel free to let us know what you do differently; as the saying goes, “never change a winning formula”.
I wish you all the best in your next workshop.