Let’s just talk about your business

03. 10. 19 John Chapman

Lets talk about your business blog

“At that time, the standard format of any important IBM meeting was a presentation using overhead projectors and graphics that IBMers called "foils" [projected transparencies]. Nick was on his second foil when I stepped to the table and, as politely as I could in front of his team, switched off the projector. After a long moment of awkward silence, I simply said, "Let's just talk about your business."

I mention this episode because it had an unintended, but terribly powerful ripple effect. By that afternoon an e-mail about my hitting the Off button on the overhead projector was crisscrossing the world. Talk about consternation! It was as if the President of the United States had banned the use of English at White House meetings” Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Chairman and CEO of IBM 1993 - 2002

The requirements workshop

The decision is taken to begin a project. A business requirements workshop is needed. There are issues to be dealt with. Individuals need to be brought together to discuss, review and create new ideas about how things can be improved.

Preparing for the workshop

Time is important and not to be wasted, there are questions to be answered, information to be gathered and preparation completed in advance of the session. Compiling a list of questions such as below would seem to comprehensively document all the issues that may crop up relating to such a workshop, but does this level of micro-management actually improve the process?

  1. What date will it be on?
  2. Who will attend?
  3. Where will the workshop take place?
    • If it is off-site is there the budget available?
    • If it is on site is there a room big enough?
    • Should there be an over-night stay?
  4. How should the room be set out? Lecture theatre / café style / U-Shape?
  5. How long will it last for?
  6. What will be the start time?
  7. What will be the end time?
  8. Shall we provide lunch?
  9. What are the dietary requirements?
  10. What are the agenda items?
  11. How long will be allocated for each agenda item?
  12. Who will write up the workshop?
  13. Will it follow the Chatham House Rule?
  14. Prepare a list of preparation questions for each attendee
    • What do they currently like
    • What don’t they like
    • What do they think needs to be changed?
  15. Who will be for the change?
  16. Who will be against the change?
  17. What time-table will be there for next actions and follow up?
  18. Who will we measure the effectiveness of the session?
  19. How will the business benefits be modelled?
  20. Can the financial benefits be easily identified?
  21. How many non-financial benefit classifications should be used?

It is like a Mastermind Session. Two minutes on your specialist subject of how to successfully prepare for and run a requirements workshop. Sometimes organising the workshop is more effort than the workshop itself.

When is this appropriate?

Following this method is appropriate when there is clarity around the issues, what needs to be resolved, what the future could look like. If the software solution has been chosen, there is a ‘given’ around the functionality. This will assist in defining what ‘the future’ has to look like.

What if?

What if the future is not clear? There are many unknown unknowns. There might be disagreement at the top of the organisation on the strategic direction. Further down, into management and frontline employees, they know there is a need for change; yet are unable to state eloquently what the issues are or how they can be resolved.

Sometimes we can get lost in the issues over time keeping, clarity and specifics about what needs to be done. Before we can get to the specifics, opinions and ideas need to be developed. So instead: Let’s just talk about your business.

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John Chapman

Written by:

John Chapman

Programme Director