It’s how you ask it…

Prioritising requirements

You’re running a workshop and the group have come up with a bunch of new propositions. You want them to vote on which ones to take forward to the next stage. Or maybe you’ve identified a bunch of functionality and features and you want the group to prioritise what they’d like to see built first. What question you ask the group next is critical to the answer you will get.

You need to frame the question appropriately and make it clear to the group the criteria by which they are making their vote…

Do they need to be thinking about “do-ability”, the ease to implement, or do they need to be focussed upon the innovation and the idea itself. Should they be considering the cost to implement, time to market, return on investment, or should they be thinking about the art of the possible; the “blue sky”; the destination, regardless of the journey to get there.

Which line of thinking they should use will depend upon where you are in the process. Get them thinking about practicalities of implementation too early and you are likely to dilute the vision. Too late in the process and you will have candidate propositions or features that by their complexity or uncertainty will never the light of day.

So two tips. Before you ask the group to vote, or to prioritise, clarify the objectives and the critiera by which they are to decide. Maybe ask them to assume a ‘persona’ and vote in the way they’d expect the persona to vote, for example a customer will have different priorities to a developer.  Whose vote is it anyway?
And after they have made their vote make sure you manage the group’s expectations. Don’t let them leave the room thinking what they’ve decided upon is final and binding. It rarely is.

1 Comment

  1. Conor Neill · Friday, 29 June, 2007

    There is an interesting story about why the Jesuits were allowed to smoke and the Franciscans were not. Back in the age when tobacco was discovered, both groups enjoyed their little bit of tobacco – however both felt it important to get guidance from the pope on how they should smoke.

    The Franciscans had an audience with the pope. They went along and after a short conversation with the pope, they asked – “Your Holiness, would it be ok to smoke whilst we pray?”. His Holiness thought for a short while before responding that it would not be right to interupt such an important matter as prayer in order to smoke.

    The Jesuits, some time later, had their audience with the pope. After a short conversation, they asked “Your Holiness, would it be ok to pray whilst we smoke?” – to which the pope immediately responded “of course”.

    This explains why the Jesuits were allowed to smoke and the Franciscans not.

    It is not only criteria, but how you phrase the question that counts.

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