MeetingSphere is a workshop solution perfect for identifying requirements, dealing with conflicting interests and personalities and establishing priorities. When asked what they value most in MeetingSphere, business analysts and project managers typically mention the following:
not having to meet face to face for getting results
elimination of prejudice, bias and undue influence
collaborative collecting of detailed requirements
ability to identify conflict and broker consensus
easy implementation of decision rules
efficiencies of digitalization
instant documentation and export of data
Use of MeetingSphere ranges from in-house project managers and business analysts of Fortune 500 corporations and government agencies to ‘big-four’ consultancies. Free-lance project management professionals and business analysts add global reach to their work with MeetingSphere Connect. Portable MeetingSphere servers are used where the Internet does not reach or must not reach for security reasons.
Not having to meet face to face for getting results
Because requirements are invariably a critical input in project management, delays in establishing the requirements baseline almost inevitably extend the critical path. Running these workshops online not only cuts costs and effort but also cycle time dramatically.
make it easier to find a time slot which allows the right people to participate
avoid scheduling delays
reduce the need for one-on-one interviews
enable contribution before and after, even by those who could not attend the workshop itself
Elimination of prejudice, bias and undue influence
In conventional workshops, the difficult tasks of requirements elicitation and scoping can be made more difficult when stakeholders leverage their power and influence by various, sometimes confrontational means. MeetingSphere tools help provide a level playing field by eliminating prejudice, bias and undue influence in several ways:
Simultaneous input enables participants to contribute when they have something to ‘say’ instead of having to wait their turn. Dominant personalities cannot shut out others by taking the floor or hogging the microphone
Anonymity. Meeting leaders can choose either to tag contributions with the name of the contributor, or tag them with a ‘team’ (demographic) or to leave contributions completely anonymous. Anonymity enables candor and open-mindedness by overcoming social barriers such as hierarchy (e.g. “I can’t let my boss hear me say that”), fear of ridicule and concerns about loyalty or favors owed (e.g. “you supported me last time in a discussion, so I need to support you this time even though I don’t actually feel this way”).
Inclusivity. Being able to write instead of having to speak to a group facilitates the inclusion of those with a more introvert personality as well as those participants who feel at a disadvantage because the meeting language is not their mother tongue. Writing a contribution is far less stressful then having to make one’s case to an audience that may be impatient or hostile.
Interactivity. In MeetingSphere meetings, contributions by default are immediately visible to everyone. This enables participants to balance statements they don’t agree with by a direct response, by asking a question or by asking for more information. It also allows for detail and comments to be added as well as responses answered where in a conventional setting, the ‘microphone’ would have passed on with relevant comments left unsaid and questions unanswered.
In summary, with MeetingSphere tools, project managers and business analysts gather a more comprehensive and balanced list of requirements more easily and faster than is possible with conventional techniques. Participants are engaged on a level playing field before decision rules are applied, which increases their acceptance and commitment to the results.
Collaborative collection of detailed requirements
MeetingSphere addresses the inherent wastefulness of having a group of people in a meeting room yet allowing only one person at a time to contribute to the discussion. Similarly, MeetingSphere breaks up the suboptimal process of the entire group being only able to address one item at a time, despite not every item necessarily concerning every participant. As well, MeetingSphere helps groups focus on that what matters most. MeetingSphere enables the leader of a virtual requirements workshop to dramatically improve on the familiar process issues of conventional workshops through:
Simultaneous input, enabling everyone to contribute at the same time.
Working in parallel on a range of topics, allowing participants to focus on requirements they are interested in or to which they have something to contribute.
Transparency of information, by providing access to all relevant items for review, comment or questions for the duration of the activity.
Rating and prioritizing requirements in real time, which helps to keep lists manageably short and participants to be able to focus on items that matter.
Use of prompts (or questions), ensuring that important aspects are covered and analyzed for each item, for instance, the interrelatedness (or conflict) with other requirements, or alternative requirements, or indicators of success, or the link to business needs or whatever the project team must know about that category of requirement.
Identification of conflict and brokering of consensus
With MeetingSphere’s rating tool, the leaders of requirements gathering workshops can ask participants to rate any list of items on one or several criteria.
Ratings are typically used to:
Prioritize items for further work in the meeting
Categorize items by mapping them on grids, or in matrices
Inform decision making generally
Make decisions depending on the applicable decision rules
Each rating on any criterion will instantly produce a results table and, if wanted, the same results in chart format. The results will immediately identify top-scoring items and the items that nobody finds worthy of further attention. Results also show high normalized standard deviation as red flags.
In some cases, it is enough to know that there is controversy over a requirement. In other cases, one may wish to know whether dissent runs across the whole group or between specific groups of stakeholders, which can be seen if ratings are tagged by ‘team’ (a chosen demography).
In many cases, business analysts and project management professionals find that it pays to invest time to dig deeper by using MeetingSphere’s discussion tool. In the discussion tool, participants can discuss multiple controversial items in parallel, either anonymously, or with team tags or individually named, as appropriate. Questions such as “Why can’t we agree on the importance of these requirements?” or “How could we reach consensus?” quickly reveal the interests and assumptions causing disagreement.
Conflicting assumptions are often resolved directly in the MeetingSphere discussion. Conflicting interests can be addressed as appropriate in or after the meeting or can be noted in the stakeholder register for future consideration.
Easy implementation of decision rules
All stakeholders are not created equal. This is true for most projects where a stakeholder analysis has mapped stakeholders precisely by their power and interest or by similar grids. MeetingSphere helps to implement the decision rules which reflect these inequalities.
If the group in the workshop is empowered to make decisions, participants usually do so after rating the relevant items on the relevant criteria. If certain groups have a veto, or certain quorums must be reached, such rules can be implemented by tagging ratings with the name of that group. Ratings can be weighted, aggregated, compared and filtered as required in real time, transparently, in the meeting.
If the group is to inform the decisions of decision makers who may or may not have participated in the workshop, that information will be richer and more structured than the outcomes of a conventional workshop. MeetingSphere’s rating tool aggregates data as needed. When decisions are made after the workshop is over, analysts can also export the data to Excel to analyze and present the data to decision makers as required.
Efficiencies of digitalization
When talking about MeetingSphere, project managers, business analysts and other professionals agree that their collaborative meetings and workshops have become much faster and more productive. Being able to do “twice as much in half the time and get a better result” amongst other things, is caused by:
all participants working at the same time
removing social barriers to disclosure
easy organization and reorganization of information
by focusing on what matters.
Successful meeting and workshop agendas can be saved as templates, accelerating the setup of future workshop dramatically. PMOs use templates to spread best practice throughout the organization.
All MeetingSphere tools are self-documenting. This means that all input to a MeetingSphere session is captured, sits in one place and is easily available for reuse or further processing in another meeting.
For follow-up processing, presenting and analyzing in other tools, the leader of the meeting can export the data as an Excel file. A full report is available instantly as a Word document.
The Word report is verbatim, offering opportunities of investigation traditional workshop documentation does not provide. For instance, to investigate the sources of dissent, one can refer to the report to review the arguments given in the discussions that preceded and/or followed the rating.