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Benefits Of Holding Facilitated Sessions Among Stakeholders

Blog: Business Analyst Learnings Blog

We make hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day. Some more important, others less so. With each decision we make, we shape our future and possibly, come closer to the attainment of our goals. One of the most effective ways to increase productivity and make more informed choices during requirements elicitation is by organizing facilitated sessions among stakeholders.

If you need to learn from different stakeholders about a subject or what their requirements are, consider bringing them together in a formal requirements elicitation session. The idea was formally developed in 1977 by IBM in what was called Joint Application Design. Facilitated sessions are structured working sessions where participants are chosen carefully to fulfil specific roles. While it may be easier to kickstart requirements elicitation sessions by holding individual meetings with each stakeholder, it will be useful in some cases, for example, when there are conflicting requirements or when requirements are to be prioritised, to bring them all together in the same room.  

Here are five reasons why you should give it a try:

1.    Improved results: Facilitated sessions bring diverse perspectives to the table and can quickly and efficiently uncover potential problems and solutions. When a person raises a point, it can trigger related discussion points that may have been missed, otherwise.

2.    Faster decision-making: Facilitated sessions can accelerate the rate at which information is gathered, particularly if the attendees, also known as subject matter experts, come prepared their questions, answers or issues to be tabled for discussion.

3.    Richer outcomes: By pulling the skills and capabilities of many stakeholders together, it becomes easier to produce comprehensive plans and approaches to solving problems, consequently saving time and resources during the project. Facilitated sessions can also improve team cohesiveness thereby leading to high-performing teams.

4.    People empower other people: Well-organized facilitated sessions can prompt innovation thereby creating an impetus for ground-breaking opportunities. This is because diverse points of view produce a greater comprehension of any difficult situation when compared to a limited set of viewpoints.

5.    Transfer of ownership: A facilitated session is typically organized to support enriching activities and exercises that can trigger the production of deliverables which can be further developed after the session. Proficient facilitators utilize techniques that engage stakeholders to contribute actively during the session.

6. Resolution of differences: Facilitated sessions provide the opportunity to resolve differences in requirements. Conflicting requirements can cause project delays if not cleared up. The session provides the opportunity for stakeholders to discuss and arrive at a compromise on how to move things forward.

7. Facilitated sessions provide the opportunity to develop a shared priority list, especially when it’s crucial to prioritize the order in which requirements are to be fulfilled. This type of session is also useful in defining and concluding on project scope.

Hosting Facilitated Sessions

Directing facilitated sessions requires timecontact time during the session, and follow-up time after the session. Consequently, effective sessions rely on plainly stated roles, particularly differentiating between the responsibility of the facilitator and other responsibilities essential to running facilitated sessions, e.g. secretary.

Carefully organized sessions encourage the use of well-defined agendas that ensure that the desired results can be accomplished within the allotted time.

To prepare for a facilitated session and increase the quality of the outcome, the analyst should:

  1. Research the details of the topic to be discussed.
  2. Design group exercises or activities to improve participation
  3. Ensure the workshop is comfortable for everyone involved
  4. Avoid an overloaded or hectic agenda. Regular and timed breaks are an excellent way to reestablish everyone’s focus.
  5. Discourage the use of electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops during the event. More often than not, they merely constitute unnecessary distractions that serve no practical purpose.
  6. You may need to split facilitated sessions over several days. This will help participants reflect on the decisions that have been made and possibly reassess the decisions that have been made throughout the course of the event.

There are a lot more tips to be aware of. Check out BAL’s Guide on what to do before, during and after elicitation events.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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