Two Words: Requirements. Gathering.

Want to clear a room out fast?
Mention free pizza.

Want to clear a room out fast, and not have a single person come back?
Mention requirements gathering.

This trend is ongoing and it really doesn’t matter what field of work you find yourself in. Requirements gathering is the necessary evil that exists for Business Analysts, SharePoint Architects, and end users alike. We all go into the room unaware of how a meeting will turn out, just like the first day of school.

Taking the bully approach of “give me everything you know about your job” has a tendency to leave end users not engaged, and at times… well bullied. Not everyone in the room is brave enough to share their ideas.

Here’s a few tricks that I’ve been using the past couple weeks to help facilitate productive meetings that have end users feeling engaged, heard, and appreciated for all the work they contribute to our organization and this project:

  • Keep Meeting Invites to a Minimum – A personal number that I shoot for is 10 people or less included in meetings. Naturally, people will feel more obligated to participate in the main conversation if there is a smaller group. The more people you bring in the chances of people starting side conversations or completing work in the meeting will go up dramatically. Utilizing smaller groups actually helps you, as a facilitator, better direct the attention of the room as well as keep a running tab of who your largest/smallest contributors are.
  • Get to Know Everyone in the Room – Working at a small organization is a wonderful opportunity. We get to share in the exciting news of our coworkers, see our peers grow in their jobs, and participate in employee gatherings where we know everyone’s name. It is still important have introductions at meetings, people want to share something about themselves. I like to change up my introduction slide whenever I’m getting ready to start a new project, conduct a training, or am working with external groups. Using fun questions give people an opportunity to share about themselves and learn more about their peers. This also give you, the facilitator, an opportunity to take notes on individuals you work with you may not see everyday, so later you can continue to build trust by remembering what is important to your peers.  On an intro slide ask people to provide the following:
    • Name
    • Quick Description of Position w/in Organization
    • Silly Question: What is your favorite vacation spot? What is something that should be on your resume but isn’t? Who’s your superhero/band/musician? If you could be an animal which one would you be and why?
  • Gamification –  Sitting for two hours straight can be a huge drag on end users. Especially to your introvert users, for some talking can be a huge undertaking. There are several companies out there providing valuable insight into how people want to share information. I’ve personally become interested in Innovation Games. After playing a few of these games with my end users I’ve found myself with more information than I have time to process. Turn your requirements gathering into a game of writing down what is important to end users. During a session we had sticky notes flying and staff having fun working together through how they do their jobs.

    After 20 minutes we have found all this information!!!

    After 20 minutes we have found all this information!!!

  • Assign a Scribe – When facilitating it is essential to have someone recording the meeting. Taking notes on body language, who said what, and all those little nuances that are happening around the room, who’s on their phone, drawing, working, or almost sleeping! Always make sure your scribe is someone you know has the ability to take detailed notes. Those notes will play a key role when it’s time to begin writing implementation plans.
  • Follow-up Emails –  Let end users, stakeholders, and anyone else you’ve schedule your meetings with know that your appreciate their time and input in your project. As mentioned earlier people want to know that you appreciate their support. Sending a quick email is a reminder that you are looking to build a working relationship on the foundation of trust. Becoming a strong contact point for your platform and department will lend others to reach out for help in the future for development as well as end user adoption since they know you are there to help out.

Remember, when your out working with end users have fun and try to keep the tech talk to a minimum. End users are not going to be excited hearing about libraries, custom lists, and the term store.  Nerding out is best done with your Information Technology department.

 

Please let me know what you’d like to see next, I’m open to topic suggestions.

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