7 Tips for Running a Requirements Gathering Workshop

Gathering user requirements is generally acknowledged to be one of the most important stages of a CRM project.  However, unearthing what users need from such a system can be difficult, if there is little guidance in the process (either from experienced, internal stakeholders or external consultants).

The following tips come from my personal experiences running requirements gathering workshops:

1.  People will not contribute right away

Attendees may be happy to be present, uninterested or even hostile to the project itself.  Regardless of the mood in the room, people will be reluctant to participate and you will need to invest some time in outlining the situation, what the project is looking to achieve and how they can contribute.

2.  Surveys can be a useful starting point

Distributing a survey a couple of weeks out from the workshop can often provide examples and use cases that will help you personalize your discussion points.  The survey should be brief (<5 questions) and provide an anonymous opportunity for users to highlight the issues important to them.

3.  Demoing functionality is useful

Having a working prototype can be of great assistance in helping people think  about the processes required.  You shouldn’t “build” the solution before you’ve talked to users, but if you can customise the demo with one or two use cases that are relevant to them, it will provide a gentle jumping off point for everyone to think about what you missed, what could be improved and what worked well.

4.  Don’t stress about preparing slides

Whilst a working demo is useful, slides generally are not.  I always make sure I have some, but without fail, the discussion quickly moves to the whiteboard and stays there.

5.  Keep a parking lot for issues

Once you’ve moved onto whiteboarding discussions, immediately cordon off an area as a “parking lot”.  Ideas and feedback will start flowing quickly and important points will need to be put aside frequently, although hopefully not forgotten.

6.  Try to get senior management in the room

On the one hand, attendees who are sceptical of the project will often provide important insights into potential pitfalls for the system (they may have good reason for their scepticism).  On the other, having senior management represented will reinforce their commitment to the success of the project and prevent a negative mood from taking hold.

7.  Ask what reports are needed

Finally, a very useful question during the workshop and follow-up meetings, is to ask what reports each user needs.  Without a framework to build on, users will find it difficult to express what their common tasks are, what hampers those tasks, what information they need and so on.  Placing it in the context of reports allows people to clearly define discrete pieces of information (that can be translated into fields) and to articulate the data sources.