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Plan Techniques, Tools, and Templates for Workshops or Collaborative Meetings

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The right set of tools and techniques can go a long way toward facilitating collaborative conversations. Which tools to use for a specific get-together depends entirely on the meeting’s defined outcomes. There are multiple levels of detail needed to create a comprehensive picture of the solution and each needs a different set of tools and techniques.

Udemy Course: Lead and Contribute to Collaborative Meetings and Workshops

How to Facilitate or Participate in Live and Virtual Conversations to Define Requirements, User Stories, and Features


Examples of Different Workshop Objectives

1. Defining High-level Business Requirements or Features

For example, assume your goal is to elicit or clarify high-level, business requirements early in an initiative. You need a strategic workshop. Tools like the TOGAF Framework, Zachman Framework, Data Models, or Business Process Diagrams are ideal for visualizing and discussing alternative business strategies.

2. Clarify User Stories, Functional Features, or Requirements

On the other hand, assume your objective is to elicit or clarify detailed, functional, and non-functional requirements. User Stories, Feature Lists, and Requirements Statements are standard modes of expressing those. Any word processing software of your choice is suitable for capturing those.
However, models or diagrams like the Unified Modeling Language (UML), Activity Diagrams, Flowcharts, Dataflow Diagrams, or Workflow Models are also well suited for drilling down to lower levels of detail. These require more specialized software programs during the workshop.

3. Identify Acceptance Tests

Finally, if you are identifying test scenarios to validate a digital solution, you need tools like Cucumber, Selenium, Appium, IBM Rational Functional Tester, etc. These types of tools allow you to structure, setup, execute, and evaluate automated software tests.

Regardless of content, this kind of information generally needs a standard template. Templates reflect your organization’s culture and norms. If you do not know which templates to use, ask someone who does.

Again, Preparation is the Key to Success

The person responsible for leading the get-together needs time to prepare properly to deliver quality outcomes. The person using the tools to capture the results also needs time to prepare. Using software requires training and practice. Especially in today’s wired world where software updates are installed on the fly, keeping up with the idiosyncrasies of a new release requires constant practice.

Based on the goal of your collaborative conversation, ensure you have the necessary software installed on a working computer before you start the get-together. You should also ensure that the documenter has a sufficient degree of expertise to capture the gist of the discussion without negatively impacting the group’s creativity. Experts use tools that encourage the group to go beyond the obvious and discover inspired solutions to the complex issues they are tackling.

As a backup, consider taking a flipchart, white board, cocktail napkin, or tablet to draw pictographs, diagrams, notes, or whatever on. These serve as insurance for the conversation in case the technology does not work, or the selected diagramming techniques do not deliver the results you need.

Open Issues List / Parking Lots Are Critical

We also suggest that any get-together should deliver what we call an “Open Issues List”. Others call this a “Parking lot”. The general idea is to recognize that every topic that is introduced during the meeting may not be resolvable by the participants.

Although we try to minimize loose ends, sometimes topics come up that cannot be resolved by the group. To avoid the open issues list becoming overwhelming, we generally only allow issues that relate to the project and for which the group lacks some resource (e.g., authority, time, knowledge, etc.) to decide. Having said that, we also recommend being flexible enough to make exceptions where it makes sense.

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Written for the aspiring Business Analyst and anyone tasked with defining the business needs, requirements, or user stories for a future IT solution.

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