Technique Summary: BABOK 10.21
By Carrie Alsvary
Below is a summary of section 10.21 from the BABOK guide version 3.
Technique 10.21 – Focus Groups
Purpose – A focus group provides an interactive group environment in which opinions and ideas can be elicited about a particular product, service or opportunity.
Description – A focus group is a collective of participants who gather in a group setting to discuss their perspectives and attitudes about a given topic. A trained moderator selects the participants, prepares and conducts the session. The findings are then analyzed by a Business Analyst before they are reported to the stakeholders.
The timing of when the focus group is implemented can impact various aspects of a project. If performed at the development stage of a project, new requirements may be discovered. If performed after the product is completed the results could impact the marketing of the product or influence future development. A focus group can also be utilized to assess customer satisfaction with a product or service.
A focus group is a form of qualitative research. It is not a group interview but rather an interactive discussion with a targeted focus, similar to a brainstorming session but with more structure.The results are reported as themes and perspectives rather than numerical findings.
- Focus Group Objective – A clear and specific objective establishes a defined purpose for the focus group. Questions are formulated and discussions are facilitated with the intent of meeting the objective.
- Focus Group Plan – The focus group plan ensures that all stakeholders are aware of the purpose of the focus group and agree on the expected outcomes, and that the session meets the objectives.
The focus group plan includes:
· Purpose – create questions that define the objective, identifies key topics to be discussed and recommends whether or not to use a discussion guide.
· Location – define if the session will take place in-person or online as well as the location of the physical or virtual meeting place.
· Logistics – define the size and set up of the room, other facilities that may be required, public transportation options, and the time of the session.
· Participants – identify the demographics of those that will be actively engaged in the discussion, if there will be any observers, who the moderator will be and who the recorders will be. Consideration may also be given to if incentives will be provided to the participants.
· Budget – Outline the costs of the session and ensure that resources are appropriately allocated.
· Timelines - Establish the times when the session or sessions will be held as well as when reporting of the results can be expected.
· Outcomes – Define how the results will be analyzed and communicated and the intended actions based on the results.
- Participants – A focus group typically has between 6 to 12 active participants who are willing to offer their personal insights and perspectives on a specific topic as well as listen to the opinions of others. If many participants are needed, it may be wise to conduct more than one focus group session. Additional participants may be invited to compensate for the absence of a primary participant due to conflicts, emergencies or other reasons. Participants are often paid for their time.
The demographics of the participants selected are determined based on the objective of the focus group.
- Discussion Guide – A discussion guide is a prepared script of questions and topics for the moderator to use to meet the objective of the focus group.
Discussion guides also provide the structure or framework that the moderator will follow. They remind the moderator to welcome and introduce the participants, explain the objectives of the session, how the session will be conducted and how the feedback will be used.
- Assign a Moderator and Recorder – The moderator is an unbiased representative. The moderator is knowledgeable about the initiative and is skilled at keeping the session on track. Moderators can engage all participants and are adaptable and flexible.
The recorder takes notes to ensure that the participants’ opinions are accurately recorded.
A business analyst can be either the moderator or the recorder. The moderator and recorder are not considered active participants in the focus group and do not submit feedback.
- Conduct the Focus Group – The moderator guides the group discussion, follows a prepared script of specific issues, and ensures that the objectives are met. The group discussion should still appear free-flowing and unstructured to the participants. Sessions are typically one to two hours in length. The recorder captures the group’s comments.
- After the Focus Group – As soon as possible after the session has ended the results are transcribed. The business analyst analyzes and documents the participants’ agreements and disagreements, looks for trends in the responses, and creates a report that summarizes the results.
Usage Considerations – Strengths
- Elicit information from a group in a single session.
- Learn people’s attitudes, experiences and desires.
- Active discussion encourages participants to consider their personal view in relation to other perspectives.
- An online focus group can be conducted if participants are located in different geographic locations or travel budgets are limited.
- Online focus groups can be easily recorded for playback.
Usage Considerations – Limitations
· In a group setting, participants may be concerned about issues or trust or may not discuss sensitive or personal topics.
· Data collected about what people say may not be consistent with how they behave.
· If the group is too homogeneous their responses may not represent the complete group of requirements.
· A skilled moderator is needed to manage group interactions and discussions.
· It may be difficult to schedule the group for the same date and time.
· Online focus groups limit interaction between participants.
· It is difficult for the moderator of an online focus group to determine attitudes without being able to read body language.
· One vocal participant can sway the results of the focus group.