BANTER Business Analysts on Business Analysis

13/08/2015

Top Tips for Business Analysts preparing for a successful workshop – part 2

top-tips-2

You’ve spent time carefully preparing and planning for your requirements workshop and the day of the workshop has arrived.  During the workshop, the main job of the Business Analyst as facilitator is to keep the participants focused on the purpose of the workshop so that the agreed objectives can be achieved.  A BA will deploy a range of mechanisms to gather information from stakeholders.  The most commonly used forms are interviews and workshops but there are many other techniques that a BA can utilise.

Now, in part 2, we’ll focus on what’s needed to facilitate a successful workshop.

Be prepared

Allow yourself a little time to arrive early and set up.  Give yourself five minutes breathing space to deal with any issues that may crop up.  Workshops can be unpredictable but with a well-equipped tool kit and a plan B to fall back on, you will be capable of handling the unexpected.

Start as you mean to go on

Kick off optimistically as you introduce the overall purpose of the workshop.  It’s your responsibility to create a winning environment from the outset, one where everyone feels comfortable enough to contribute.  A short round of intros for the participants will allow you to check if anyone hasn’t arrived.

Go over the Agenda, explaining the purpose of each activity and the proposed timings.  Stick to the plan but be prepared to be flexible and make any adjustments needed.

Agree Outputs Upfront

Agree upfront what outcomes you aim to achieve by the end of the workshop.  It could be a tangible output that needs to be produced e.g. mock-up, diagram, requirements scope or process maps.

Encourage People

You must be passionate during the workshop if you want participants to feel enthused enough to take part.  If you show that you are committed to achieving the outcomes the participants will commit as well.  Involve all participants, make sure that everyone’s view is heard and all participants have the opportunity to contribute.

Keep in mind that some participants will be loud and outgoing whereas others will be quieter and less likely to be comfortable speaking out.  You can encourage quieter participants to input by using techniques that get people to write things down anonymously rather than shouting them out e.g. use post-its or cards with one idea per post-it and then cluster them. 

Keep Asking Questions

Asking questions and really listening to the answers is a key skill when facilitating a workshop.  We can ask questions to elicit information, raise issues for discussion and clarify any assumptions.  Start with open questions for information and finish with closed questions for confirmation.

Confront Conflict

With so many different viewpoints and drivers it is inevitable that there will be some form of conflict.  It’s useful to know what different stakeholders care about as it can help you surface the true business needs.  Make sure that issues are surfaced and dealt with, either resolving them during the workshop or by giving someone an action and target date for resolution.

Remember to keep it calm and conversational so that the atmosphere remains professional.  The idea of a Parking Lot is a perfect aid for deferring any really contentious or off-topic issues temporarily.

Be Bold

Don’t be afraid to try something new.  It’s often said that a picture speaks a thousand words, so get creative.  Using visual aids such as images, diagrams and mock-ups is great way to spark ideas and discussion points.  The most effective workshops have drawings, diagrams, sketches, post-it notes and other made things all over the place.

Take pictures of the outputs to share with the participants afterwards.

Allocate Actions before the meeting ends

Always aim to be finished on time.  Give yourself time before the end of the workshop to recap on the agreed actions.  Participants should be reminded who’s agreed to do each action, what they are expected to do and when they need to do it by.

Confirm what outputs you will share with the group after the workshop and when you will issue them.  Finally, thank the participants for their contribution and indicate when you will see them again.

In Summary

Good facilitation is all about running productive workshops whilst remaining impartial and independent, serving the needs of various participants to achieve the desired outcome.

Look out for part 3, the concluding part in our workshop series, in which we’ll consider what needs to happen after the workshop.

If you have enjoyed this article why not download our free eBook today “Business Analysis Simplified – A Must Have Guide”.

 

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