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Information Gathering 2: Analysis Workshops – The Key to Detail

The purpose of analysis workshops is to add detail to the information gathered during strategic one-to-one interviews with senior executives.  They are NOT the starting point for analysis.

The following content is an excerpt from the eBook IMM Function Modelling

Who to Interview

Once again the choice of interviewee is essential to the success of the workshops.  These will be middle management and other key people from the business who:

  • Have a vision of the way forward for the business.
  • Can see the business in terms OTHER THAN how things are currently done, who does them and the systems used to support the business.
  • Are comfortable working in a workshop environment.
  • Support the aims of the business modelling project.
  • Are empowered to act on behalf of the part of the business they represent.

Form of Workshops

The term “workshop” is most often used to describe a gathering of up to twenty people to discuss a particular part of the business.  This is perhaps the most inefficient and ineffective way of information gathering and is to be avoided because:

  • It fails to achieve what workshops are intended to achieve.
  • Wastes peoples time.
  • Gives analysis in general, and the project in particular, a bad name.

The most effective workshops are with a small number of people – two is the best number.  If you need to interview six people it is better to hold three separate two hour workshops with two people at each rather than one six hour workshop with six people.

Experienced analysts can run workshops with larger numbers of people, say up to six, but even then time is wasted by the additional interactions brought about by the larger numbers.

It is acceptable to bring together a large number of people (say twenty) in one place at one time but not in a single workshop.  The larger group should be broken up into smaller groups (the size depends on the experience of the analysts) and the workshops run with the smaller groups.  Feedback can be made to the whole group at various times during the day.

The Mechanics

The basic guidelines for running a workshop are:

  • Hold it in a room big enough for four people
  • The room should have at least one large whiteboard and several colours (black, red and blue is sufficient) of whiteboard markers that have not dried up!  An electronic white board from which photocopies can be directly taken is ideal as it saves a lot of time but a standard large wall mounted whiteboard will do.
  • The room should have a least one flip chart – two would be better.  Use the whiteboard markers to write on the flip charts.  NEVER take indelible flip chart markers into a room with a white board!
  • Two analysts should run the workshop, one to lead the session and draw models on the whiteboard, one to take supporting notes and ensure the lead analyst is hearing all that the interviewees are saying.
  • Have no more than two interviewees!  Four is too many to interview at one time and three will always result in a 2-1 split on opinions!  Sit them so that they can comfortably see the white board and flip charts.

Some of the more simple things can catch you out.  For example, if the room does not have a table big enough to hold any materials that the interviewees might bring along plus the writing materials for the two analysts you may all spend most of the workshop balancing things on you knees or dropping them on the floor!  I know I’ve done it!

Whenever possible use an electronic whiteboard to draw your diagrams.  These are not just sophisticated toys but a huge boon to productivity.  Using one will enable you to give copies of all diagrams produced to interviewees to take away with them.  Remember that electronic white boards are to be used and wiped.  Do not leave your models on the board and expect them to be there next morning!

The interviewees should be told that copies of the final models produced from any modelling tool will be sent to them in the near future for them to confirm that what has been captured and modelled is correct.

Preparation

Interviewees for workshops should be prepared by explaining to them at the time of booking the workshop with them:

  • The purpose of the workshop.
  • The form it will take.
  • The business area and topics that will be covered.
  • Why they were invited and what they will be expected to contribute.
  • It may be that when you explain this that they will come back and tell you that they are not the right person to pick.  If so, ask them to suggest a suitable alternative.

Proper preparation before all interviews and workshops makes them far more effective and efficient, reduces the time required and results in higher quality modelling products.

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