Business Analysis Training – Elicitation Technique: Focus Groups

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Elicitation Technique: Focus Groups

When it comes to discovering subjective information for your requirements, a Focus Group can be a great technique to use. In a previous post, I mentioned the use of Brainstorming as an Elicitation technique. The key difference between a Brainstorming session and a Focus Group is the type of information that they can be used to gather. In general, a Focus Group is use to gather subjective information. Use Focus Groups to find out your stakeholders’ attitudes, feelings, and beliefs about your solution. For this blog entry, I want to look at the ways in which you can use a Focus Group to help you with your elicitation activities.

The first thing you need to do is plan. If you want your Focus Group to be effective, you need to have a good plan in place. The first thing you might want to consider is the composition of your Focus Group. When you’re recruiting participants, think about the difference between a homogeneous group and a heterogeneous group. A homogeneous group includes individuals with similar characteristics and backgrounds. This makes it difficult to get differing perspectives. A heterogeneous group, on the other hand, includes individuals with differing characteristics and backgrounds. This might make getting information difficult if people from different groups are not comfortable sharing. Choose your participants thoughtfully to be sure to get the best results from your session.

Next, assign a good moderator/facilitator and a good recorder/scribe. Please keep in mind that is does not need to be the Business Analyst who does this. It can be; however, there might be good reasons for not performing these roles. In that case, the Business Analyst can be an observer in the session and can gather some nonverbal cues from the participants.

After deciding these things, you should create a discussion guide. This document will be used to ensure that all of the content is covered in a structured and consistent way. Be sure to include questions that will elicit the attitudes and beliefs about your solution—and ensure that your focus group stays on task.

Finally, schedule your locations, participants, and equipment for your session. Keep in mind that you may not necessarily need a physical location. You can effectively conduct a focus group in either a physical location or in a virtual location (or in some combination of both).

When it’s time to conduct your Focus Group, be sure to follow the discussion guide. This will keep the session on track and ensure that you get the results that you want. Also, during the session, you need to capture all of the comments and, if possible, the nonverbal cues. Capturing this data is an absolute necessity, so the use of a talented recorder/scribe is very important.

Once the Focus Group is finished, you need to spend some time reviewing the data. During this review, you should look for themes. Try to determine what was most common among the participants’ comments and feedback. Then, synthesize that data into a comprehensive report that is used for your requirements efforts. It’s also helpful to share your findings with the original participants to make sure that nothing is misrepresented.

Focus Groups can be great to use for eliciting subjective data about your solutions. Oftentimes, the attitudes and beliefs of your stakeholders can be just as meaningful as the more objective requirements like functional and non-functional requirements. Consider using Focus Groups during your future business analysis activities!

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About Author

Scott Fabel is a senior corporate training consultant with Computer Aid, Inc. He has over 18 years of experience working with various Fortune 1000 companies on Help Desk Implementations, Microsoft Technologies, Business Analysis, and Project Management. This includes both consultative services and customized training programs. He is HDI certified, PMP certified, CBAP certified, and a MCT. Scott has been teaching others business skills, professional skills, and technical skills for more than 13 years. He is a faculty fellow at the University of Delaware and is currently pursuing his doctorate in education for which his dissertation will focus on the benefits of corporate training and mobile learning. He speaks three languages and was recently inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame. His communication skills, combined with his martial art skills, provide him with a unique combination for keeping his sessions informative, lively, and interactive.

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