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What is a focus group and how do you conduct one effectively?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 17991 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Elicitation (BABOK KA)


A focus group is an interactive guided discussion with a carefully selected group of people (usually demographically diverse) used to obtain feedback about a product, service, or concept.  A focus group can be conducted before a launch and/or afterwards for ongoing feedback. Open-ended questions are asked to the group and participants are encouraged to respond and interact freely with other group members.  As the facilitator guides the conversation either a scribe will take notes or a video recording may also be made for further analysis and review at a later time. Focus groups typically last for one to two hours.

To conduct and effective focus group both the preparation and facilitation are crucial, but much more of the effort should be focused on the preparation stage.  

Preparing for the Focus Group

  • Determine Logistics - When and where will the focus group be held. The setting should encourage conversation and make participants feel comfortable.

  • Select the participants - Decide who needs to participate in the focus group in order to achieve its purpose. Most focus groups have roughly 6 to 12 participants.  Fewer participants limit conversation, and more get unmanageable. Determine how many participants you need and the key demographics and attributes of the group.

  • Define the objectives and list of questions - a one to two hour focus group will likely only cover four to eight higher level questions.  Questions should be open-ended and move from very general to more specific.

  • Develop a script - in addition to your questions you will want to include opening and closing remarks for the focus group.

  • Identify your facilitator(s) (and scribe if a video recording is not being made) - The facilitator should have a strong knowledge of the project and its goals. They also need to be able to deal ensure all participants opinions are heard and that no one person dominates the discussion.

Running the Focus Group

  • Introduce yourself and any others that will help facilitate the session

  • If you are recording the session tell the participants and explain why and how the recording will be used later.

  • Set the tone of the session such that the participants feel comfortable sharing their opinions.

  • Follow your script and present your prepared open-ended questions but be sure to allow for some spontaneity. As the conversion progresses ask follow-up question that tease out specifics.

  • Ensure free and open interaction among the participants. Help draw out quieter members and make sure stronger members don’t dominate the conversation.

  • Track your time so that you are able to progress through your prepared questions at a reasonable pace.




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Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.



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