Plan and Facilitate a Requirements Workshop

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Categories: Project Planning

Every project manager knows that there is no single best way to collect project requirements. 

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) -- Fourth Edition identifies several tools and approaches for collecting requirements. They include interviews and focus groups, facilitated workshops, group creativity and group decision-making techniques. 

Combining some of these tools and techniques with a requirements workshop can be the most efficient and effective requirements elicitation approach. But only if the workshop is planned and facilitated well.

Planning a requirements workshop is no different than planning any meeting or event. Some simple steps to follow:
1. Define the scope and establish an agenda 
The scope and agenda should make it clear to all participants the reasons why they are attending the workshop. 

2. Invite the right people 
Generally, you want to keep the guest list short, but make sure to invite key stakeholders. These include representatives from teams or user groups that will benefit from the project's outcome, project sponsors, product or system owners, and business and technical consultants. 

3. Plan the logistics 
To facilitate an open and constructive working session, make sure that the workshop's location and environment has sufficient capacity and appropriate equipment for hosting the workshop. 

Now that we have a good plan, how do we facilitate the workshop? 

1. Lay ground rules 
Establish basic ground rules. For example, start on time, stay in scope, and respect and build on other people's ideas. 

2. Gather requirements 
Get everyone involved through questioning and individual interviewing. Apply group creativity techniques, such as brainstorming and mind mapping. And for topics that require in-depth and focused discussions, organize dedicated breakout sessions. 

3. Record the workshop 
Make sure that someone attends the workshop solely to write the protocol during the workshop. He or she should capture all requirements, ideas, assumptions, risks and open items. 

4. Pre-qualify and pre-prioritize requirements 
To facilitate the scoping process at a later stage, try to leave a requirements workshop with pre-qualified and pre-prioritized requirements. 

5. Review the protocol and develop a follow-up plan 
At the end of the workshop, plan sufficient time to review the written protocol and the derived action items. Develop a follow-up plan to address the open items. Identify the owner of each item, and establish deadlines and next-steps. 

Do you hold requirements workshops? If so, how do you plan and facilitate them?

Posted by Marian Haus on: May 29, 2012 10:51 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Ellen Gottesdiener
thanks for sharing you ideas here.

i plan, facilitate and designs requirements workshop quite a bit, and have continued to adapt my practices for agile projects. In my book Requirements by Collaboration, i share a repeatable framework i find useful for a variety of workshops: Purpose, Participants, Principles, Product, Place, and Process.

in my view, requirements workshops are not like planning any other meeting.

meetings may have an agenda and perhaps facilitator or meeting leader of sorts. meetings often involve information exchange (not invention and creation as workshops are), a meeting are typically lead by a non-neutral facilitator or meeting leader. And, meeting tend toward little "serious play".

my take is that we engineer much richer collaborations into the workshops, than in a typical meeting.

this includes pre-work, mixing workshops with other elicitation techniques, using ongoing retrospectives, carefully orchestrated small group work, using the "wall of wonder" (a group collaboration pattern - along with a variety of other patterns including "expand then contract", which we now refer call "explore and evaluate" and more!

i've shared some ideas on requirements workshops in some articles (in addition to my book), you can find them here:

i hope you find them helpful.
all the best,
~ ellen

Saugata Dutta
In addition to the items listed above, I prefer to create a demand (necessity) for organizing such an event because people sometime use this technique loosely and consider any requirements session as a workshop.

It’s the same experience that we have when we plan to buy a car. Once we decide, almost every day we (read – family member) do research and bring in new information towards a decision on which car to buy and where to buy from. Irrespective of the amount or maturity of the research, the day when we actually walk in the showroom becomes the D-Day and there is lot of expectation to be fulfilled.

The way I create the demand is first by facilitating smaller group sessions and collecting some of the key foundational requirement items. Then prioritize these key requirements and plan and schedule formal workshop sessions considering the points as mentioned by the author.

The most challenging part of the workshop is to set the expectation and facilitate the session to the level that is acceptable and is meaningful for the participants.



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