Preparing for the Workshop


Proper preparation for the workshop is critical to success.

Selling the Concept

Proper preparation is the key to a successful workshop.

First, it may be necessary to sell the concept inside the organization by communicating the benefits of the workshop approach to prospective members of the team. This is typically not a difficult process, but it's not unusual to encounter resistance: "Not another meeting!" "We can't possibly get all these critical people together for one day." "You'll never get [ name your favorite stakeholder] to attend ." Don't be discouraged; if you hold it, they will come.

Ensuring the Participation of the Right Stakeholders

Second, preparation also involves identifying stakeholders who can contribute to the process and whose needs must be met in order to ensure a successful outcome. These stakeholders will have already been identified if the team followed the problem analysis steps, but now is the time for one last review to make sure that all critical stakeholders have been identified.

Attending to Logistics

Third, a conscientious approach to logistics is necessary and will pay dividends in that a poorly organized workshop is unlikely to achieve the desired result. Logistics involve everything from structuring the proper invitation to travel arrangements to the lighting in the workshop meeting room. A literal belief in Murphy's Law ”"Whatever can go wrong will go wrong" ”should be your guideline. If you approach logistics with a high degree of professionalism , it will be obvious to the attendees that this is indeed an important event, and they will act accordingly . You'll also have a more successful workshop.

Providing Warm-Up Materials

Fourth, send materials out in advance of the workshop to prepare the attendees and also to increase productivity at the workshop session. These materials set each attendee 's frame of mind. We call this "getting their minds right." One of the messages we need to deliver is that this is not yet another meeting. This may be our one chance to get it right.

We recommend that you provide two types of warm-up materials.

  1. Project-specific information . This might include drafts of requirements documents, bulleted lists of suggested features, copies of interviews with prospective users, analyst's reports on trends in the industry, letters from customers, bug reports from the existing system, new management directives, new marketing data, and so on. Although it's important not to bury the prospective attendees in data, it's also important to make sure they have the right data.

  2. Out-of-the-box thinking preparation . Part of "getting their minds right" is encouraging attendees to think "out of the box." "Forget for a minute what you know and what can't be done due to politics. Forget that we tried to get management buy-in last time and failed. Forget that we haven't yet solidified our development process. Simply bring your insights on the features of this new project, and be prepared to think 'out of the box.'"

Warm-up materials should spur both in-context and out-of-the-box thinking.

The workshop leader can assist in this process by providing thought-provoking and stimulating articles about the process of creativity, rules for brainstorming, requirements management, managing scope, and so on. In this atmosphere, creative solutions will more likely result.


Do not send the data out too far in advance. You do not want the attendees to read it and forget it, and you don't want the long planning cycle to decrease their sense of urgency. Send the data out anywhere from two days to one week in advance. In all likelihood , the attendees will read it on the plane or at the last minute anyway. That's OK; it will help them be in the right frame of mind for the session.

To help you with your out-of-the-box thinking and to help set the context for the workshop activity, we've provided a memo template in Figure 11-1. Parenthetically, we'll also "read between the lines" a little bit to provide insights on some of the challenges you may already face in your project and on how the workshop is intended to address them.

Figure 11-1. Sample memo for kick-starting a requirements workshop


Choosing the Facilitator

If possible, have a facilitator who is not a team member run the workshop.

To ensure success, we recommend that the workshop be run by someone outside the organization, a nonstakeholder, someone who is unaffected by any particular outcome and has no role in the company other than to see a successful workshop outcome. Ideally, the facilitator will also have experience with the unique challenges and charged atmosphere of the requirements management process. However, if this is simply not practical in your environment, the workshop could be facilitated by a team member if that person:

  • Has received some training in the process

  • Has demonstrated solid consensus-building or team-building skills

  • Is personable and well respected by both the internal and external team members

  • Is strong enough to chair what could be a challenging meeting

If the workshop is to be facilitated by a team member, that person must not contribute to the ideas and issues at the meeting. Otherwise, the workshop is in danger of losing the objectivity that is necessary to get at the real facts, and it may not foster a trusting environment in which a consensus can emerge.

In any case, the facilitator plays a pivotal role in making the workshop a success. After all, you have all the key stakeholders gathered together, perhaps for the first and last time on the project, and you cannot afford a misfire. Some of the responsibilities of the facilitator include the following.

  • Establish a professional and objective tone for the meeting.

  • Start and stop the meeting on time.

  • Establish and enforce the "rules" for the meeting.

  • Introduce the goals and agenda for the meeting.

  • Manage the meeting and keep the team "on track."

  • Facilitate a process of decision and consensus making, but avoid participating in the content.

  • Manage any facilities and logistics issues to ensure that the focus remains on the agenda.

  • Make certain that all stakeholders participate and have their input heard .

  • Control disruptive or unproductive behavior.


Managing Software Requirements[c] A Use Case Approach
Managing Software Requirements[c] A Use Case Approach
ISBN: 032112247X
Year: 2003
Pages: 257 © 2008-2017.
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