When is a requirements workshop the right thing to do?
I'm not clear about the benefits of holding a requirements workshop. When is a requirements workshop better than just holding one-on-one interviews or a simple meeting?
A requirements workshop is one of the most effective ways to gather requirements quickly and accurately. Having the stakeholders and team members meet to offer their input reduces the risk of missed requirements and improves the odds of gathering accurate, thorough information. But there's a downside too; workshops can be expensive, they take time to prepare, and if poorly managed they can be a big waste of time. Before jumping into a requirements workshop, make sure you've considered these factors:
Common ground: A requirements workshop (Link to new Tool Requirements Workshop Checklist.doc) may be your best choice if you're working with multiple stakeholders on a common solution. It can help build consensus, accelerate problem solving, and serve as a forum for diving deeply into complex processes with multiple inputs, outputs, steps, and opportunities for improvement. But here's an important heads-up: if your workshop participants can't work well together, the workshop is unlikely to be successful. Be on the lookout for tension among the prospective invitees. Look for competing desires and needs that could sabotage any chance of agreement and waste precious time.
Time and space: If geographic barriers or other physical factors stand in the way of working together as a group, there may be no benefit from having people meet in the same room at the same time. In this case, consider whether an in-person workshop is really necessary, or whether if a phone or online connection with at least some of the participants might work equally well. Of course, be sure to factor in any technical complications of teleconferencing.
People, people, people: A requirements workshop is doomed to fail if you can't bring the right people to the table. Think about the prospective participants.. Are there dominant personalities? Are there any passive "go along to get along" types? Too few leaders or too many followers can produce an inaccurate, one-sided picture of the requirements. If everyone isn't comfortable speaking out, you can be sure that the ideas and discussion will be incomplete. A special danger of overbearing leaders and/or intimidated followers is time-wasting, energy-sapping, creativity-killing "turf wars."
Purpose and planning: Requirements workshops work best when you have a clear objective and enough time to prepare. Gathering people in a room without a clear purpose and no clue about what they might be able to accomplish together wastes everyone's time—and you'll be no closer to gathering the requirements. It's critical to allow enough time to plan and prepare so that the participants will feel that their input is valued and their time is well spent.