How do you do effective planning? The most important thing is to ensure that you have a clearly defined set of workshops that are mapped against the project scope that has been signed off. You’ll find on the landing page for this video a downloadable weighted scorecard, which I also reference in my early video series on running vendor and SI selection. This is really a good starting point, because if you use weighted score cards, you have already defined the capabilities for ecommerce that the platform must deliver.
It’s sensible to base workshops around capabilities. The reason for doing this is if you just go out to different areas of the business and ask them to get into low-level requirements based on the high-level ones already captured, you run the risk of duplication. There are functional capabilities for ecommerce that different parts of business have dependencies upon. They will give you a very similar requirement and you’ll capture it multiple times. Now somebody has to go through the de-duplication process to isolate the primary requirement and ensure that duplicates are not sent down into use case models or user stories for developers. Otherwise the developers are going to have to spend time and effort to realize that they’ve got duplicates and not waste time and effort.
A capability, for example, is order management or payment management or product catalog management. You take an area like order management and look at all of the requirements across a business that relate to processing orders or managing different types of orders placed through the ecommerce platform. Then you’re going to identify the business stakeholders that are impacted by order management. If you know your capabilities that you need to deliver requirements for, you can map stakeholder sets to them.
You can identify technical stakeholders, people who are going to be responsible for making architectural decisions or integration decisions or data flow decisions. Then you can get your business stakeholders. So those people are responsible for ensuring that the ecommerce platform delivers the functional capabilities that they must have in order to satisfactorily hit their ecommerce goals and deliver the right user experience to the customer. Then you’ve also got people in the logistics and Finance areas of the business who can be impacted by issues caused by the order management flow from an ecommerce site into backend systems like ERPs, warehouse management, finance systems.
Now you can build a stakeholder set around that capability and ensure that you have the right people in the room so that you get a holistic view of the requirements for that particular area, which makes it much simpler for the business analyst to understand what are your individual requirements versus what are the same requirements just expressed in different ways by different parts of the business.
The next requirement for effective planning, after you’ve established your capabilities and the stakeholder set for each of those capability workshops, is to ensure that you go to the people who own the resource for each of those stakeholders. So these are senior managers or directors. You must ensure that the people who can authorize their team’s resources have bought into the process you’re following, and have instructed their team to dedicate time to the workshops.
Otherwise, you can end up in a situation, which I’ve seen this on a large omni-channel project, where key stakeholders don’t turn up to workshops simply because the Director has said they’ve not been properly engaged with and the team has other priorities. That compromised the output for the omni-channel project because we couldn’t validate some of the assumptions. We couldn’t get requirements properly defined. And the business analyst had to go to and fro to check what their requirements were, match that back to the other business teams, and it became really confused. It took much longer to deliver that stream than it did in other capabilities where we had everyone in the room. So ensuring that resources ring fence is absolutely critical. If you want discovery to go well, you’ve got to get buy in from the people who own the authorization process for people’s time.
The next bit after effective planning is you have to ensure that you brief people adequately. It’s all well and good having the resource ring fenced, but if the people don’t know why they turn up to a workshop, then that’s a failure as well. So be very succinct in defining goals for each workshop, the discussion points that will be covered during the session, and what the target outputs are. Also, be clear on any follow-up activity that will be expected. Equally brief people on any pre-work that’s required.
For example, if you require people to come with evidence of existing business processes, or people to come with any documentation. A good example is when talking about user generated content and you’re talking about using a third party review engine. There’s a review engine being used, so there’s the ability to bring in information about how that currently works, what the capability set is, any documentation from that third party that needs to be evaluated, etc.
Be very clear on what people can do to be better prepared to get a more productive workshop. Then ensure that they understand why they’re coming, what they’re going to discuss and what they’re going to get from it as well. If you give people that care and attention upfront, they come in with a much better mindset to be able to contribute effectively to that process. And it also then makes the business analysts life much easier. Because if people in the room know what they’re doing, they’re generally much more productive in what they contribute.
If they sit there having no idea, it can create a bit of a defensive barrier and can also lead to an ineffective session where the BA comes out with so many gaps in the requirements that you then have to run follow-up sessions or you then have to duplicate workshops in order to get to the level of detail that is required.
So that is how to effectively plan. You need to remember the six key steps:
Define the ecommerce capabilities aligned with your project scope.
Define the stakeholder set that will enable you to map out each capability.
Ensure the resource is ring fenced.
Get a clear brief for each workshop and distributed to the stakeholders.
Ensure that there is somebody there on hand to answer any questions if people have questions in advance of those workshops.
Ensure you have an experienced BA to document functional requirements and business processes.
I know that was a long session but planning for workshops is critical if you want to get the right results out of them, and if you want to save time and effort. So it’s worth going into this effort upfront.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop a line via LinkedIn or Twitter and you can find my contact details on the website.
Thanks very much for listening.