Project Management

Focus Groups

last edited by: David Hernandez on Nov 6, 2016 11:58 PM login/register to edit this page

1 Applications
2 Procedures
3 Instructions
4 Reference

This technique is used to collect information from a group of people in a structured manner. Traditionally applied to market research, Focus Groups can be used as an alternative to individual structured interviews or customer questionnaires or surveys. Multiple viewpoints can be shared and discussed with the assistance of a session moderator or facilitator.

Focus Groups are particularly useful when faced with tight deadlines. In a relatively short period of time, views on an enterprise's products, services, problems, and opportunities or customer attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs can be culled from a large, representative sample of the target population. Using a script and a standard set of questions, vital information can be collected, minimizing bias and increasing quality. Transcriptions of the sessions can then be analyzed and normalized, using an appropriate technique.


  • To collect information from a number of stakeholders in a relatively short period of time.
  • To explore ideas, perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and/or concerns from an enterprise's customer base, target customer base, and/or other stakeholders.
  • To facilitate transition to a new environment, preparing the organization for change.


  1. Confirm information collection requirement.
  2. Set objectives and determine target audience.
  3. Determine a set of appropriate questions.
  4. Develop a moderator's guide and assign a moderator.
  5. Arrange logistics.
  6. Conduct the session(s).
  7. Transcribe the results.
  8. Analyze the results, using an appropriate technique.


During an enterprise change project, a number of information gathering techniques can be used to provide vital information for the project team(s) to process. Structured interviews, questionnaires, surveys, or workshops can be used in conjunction with the Focus Group technique (see Questionnaires and Surveys, Structured Interviewing, Facilitation and Workshops). Confirm the appropriate information collection technique, based on the requirements and time frames of the project. Focus Groups tend to be the best way to collect information from real customers, since sample populations can be quickly assessed and since focus groups can be recorded to capture all customer exchanges.

Once the objectives of the focus groups are understood, determine the target population and the number of focus group sessions to conduct. Typically, market segments are used and statistical sampling techniques can be applied to assist in determining the total sample to survey. Questionnaires and/or spot checks, at the point of customer interface, can be used to aid decision making and to supplement the focus group process. Based on the target audience, the objectives, and other project requirements, develop a list of primary questions for each topic to be explored (see Questioning).

Focus groups can be professionally conducted and transcribed by outside firms. Use judgment and select an appropriate level of resource required to moderate and transcribe the session. Whether using internal or external resources, develop a focus group guide to assist the moderator. This moderators guide should include the following information:

  • an introduction
  • an overview of the structure of the guide and how to use it
  • the objectives and the purpose of the focus group sessions
  • specific focus group instructions and general tips
  • focus group questions and/or topic areas (see the following example)
Determine the timing of the focus group, arrange the facilities (videotaping of the sessions and/or allowing for direct observation from behind a one-way mirror may limit available venues), and schedule the sessions. Pre-screen participants, provide directions to the venue, and provide an overview of the process. Arrange refreshments and/or monetary incentives.

Prepare for the sessions by reviewing the moderator's guide and questions. Identify key points to focus on or listen to, and write any pertinent notes to help facilitate the session. Conduct the session, following the general guidelines of facilitation and workshops (see Facilitation and Workshops). Start each session on time, welcoming the participants and providing any other necessary information. Watch the time carefully, and regulate the discussion. Write down important notes or observations (see example) in case you need to return to a key point later during the session. End the session on time, and thank the participants. Explain the general next steps and assure confidentiality and anonymity.

Have the results transcribed (if tape-recorded) and analyze them, using an appropriate set of techniques. (See Customer Needs Analysis and Problem Analysis.)


  1. Richard C. Whitely. The Customer-Driven Company, Moving From Talk to Action. Addison Wesley, 1991.

last edited by: David Hernandez on Nov 6, 2016 11:58 PM login/register to edit this page

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