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Author: Jason Kelly

Facilitators skills – Getting the most from your workshop

What is the different between workshop and meeting?

Meetings are focused on sharing information and creating “Buy-in” or awareness for the topic being discussed. Meetings can cover a wide range of topics as part of its agenda. Workshops typically focus on one topic and are more hands on for the attendees. For example, weekly regional meeting would cover sales performance, pipeline activities, departmental risks and other key metrics. Whereas, a RFP requirements weighting workshop would focus on the topic of weighting requirements that will form the RFP to be issued.

Workshops Facilitator:

The facilitator creates the energy that enables teams / groups to collaborate and achieve positive outcome within the workshop. They try to stay neutral and do not express opinion or lead the team towards a decision. The can support the team if they require clarification or directions on next steps in the workshop.

Key stages on workshop decision making:

When you present a new topic for discussion in a work, you may have a good sense of the answer(s). Unfortunately, when we are working on complex and dynamic problems we need the synergy of the workshop group to formulate the key decision points. The dynamics of the workshop group typically leads to multiple competing decision points to each new topic. As a facilitator, you are stuck in the loop of additional workshops to review each decision point, which in turn generates more and more. This is sometimes referred to as a rabbit hole. Your workshop team has lost focus and direction.

Getting the team from divergent thinking (many unstructured decision points) to a convergent thinking approach (fewer decision points) is the key activity of the facilitator. The key steps to managing the workshop group through these decision point stages is as follows:

  • New topic
    • Present topic is a logic manner, ensure everyone attending understands the basis of the topic and why it is being discussed.
  • Familiar opinions stage
    • This will be the point in the workshop that many opinions are expressed by the group. These suggestions will be close to their current knowledge area. Think of a problem topic in your business and you will quickly generate several solutions / options to resolve.
  • • Diverse perspectives stage
    • The facilitator pushes the group to generate more ideas / suggestions to move forward on the topic. These suggestions are fewer in quantity to the previous stage. The objective is more variety and fresh thinking to push the options available
  • Consolidated thinking stage
    • Now the facilitator reduces and removes options from the decision-making options. The facilitator will group similar options, remove no longer valid suggestions. The removal can be done with some voting for best options, those with lowest votes are removed.
  • Refinement stage
    • Building more validity into the remaining suggestions. Thinking and focusing on viability and possible proof of concept to test the suggestions.
  • Decision point
    • The best suggestion is now presented to the business as the output from the workshop group.

As can be seen the facilitator needs to allow the team to move through the stages of dynamic group decision making. They will initially create a lot of similar ideas to these existing knowledge base, then expand their thinking. This will create a wide range of suggestions. The facilitator will filter, consolidate and remove suggestions towards the final decision point.

Presenting for Engagement, getting the most out of your meeting

All too often we have attended presentations that upon conclusion of the meeting we asked ourselves:

Why was I in this meeting? What was the point of the meeting? All too often we have attended presentations that upon conclusion of the meeting we asked ourselves: Why was I in this meeting? What was the point of the meeting? 

It costs money in salaries and time for staff members to attend meetings. Ineffective meetings can waste significant amounts of resources in terms of dollars and time that could be spent on other activities. Project Managers and Business Analysts schedule a lot of meetings as part of their day to day activities. Let’s discuss how to deliver maximum results from each meeting you are hosting. 

Caprice White says, “Meeting facilitation is a soft skill that is a vital part of your business analyst toolkit. It is rare to be a business analyst and not facilitate meetings.”  Keeping your facilitation skills sharp can move those meetings along when everyone in the room seems to be talking about a different topic.

“Fortunately, we have a little meeting protocol where I work…you can’t schedule a meeting without identifying the objective of the meeting and the desired outcome,” offers Andrea Brockmeier. Identify why you are meeting and what you expect to get out of the meeting in the invitation to be clear with meeting attendees. If your purpose and outcome are not clear, don’t hold the meeting. Your agenda should support the outcome. Consider stating agenda items as questions to answer as a way of reinforcing the meeting outcome.

Bob Prentiss offers the advice, “With the right preparation, you can confidently walk into any room – including the board room – and knock it out of the park. Know your audience needs and tell a good story.” Even with a clear meeting purpose and outcome, a meeting can be unproductive without understanding your attendee’s needs. Understand WIIIFM: What Is In It For Me? Every attendee will be asking that question at some point in the meeting. Tell the story to get WIIFM across. Data is good, but we remember stories long after the meeting. Data supports the story you are telling.

There are four phases to creating a great meeting and presentation, one that will both inform and create engaging conversation. 

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Planning Phase

The planning phase can be a quick review of the presentation structure (if recurring content) or a more detailed in which you are thinking about key aspects of the meeting. The first key decision point is outlining the purpose of the meeting.  The next is to outline the outcomes of the meeting you want to achieve. Outlining the outcomes sets expectations on the desired outcome of the meeting.

Invite roles or resources that are critical to ensuring a good outcome for your meeting. Stakeholder analysis or a RACI can be used to determine meeting invites. If the meeting outcome is a decision, make sure that attendee can make that decision. If an attendee can’t help you achieve the meeting outcome or make a decision, you might want to consider excluding them from the meeting. Understanding your audience is important to making a good presentation. Equally important is understanding why someone declines the meeting invitation. If you can’t hold the meeting without them, ask for a delegate that can make decisions in their place or contribute to the conversation. 

If participants are attending the meeting remotely, it’s a good idea to make sure the teleconferencing equipment, phone and desktop sharing application are accessible and available to the attendees. Include the logistic information on how to connect to the meeting remotely in the meeting invite and all meeting communications. 


Don’t skip over the agenda. Roger Schwarz from Harvard Business Review talks about the importance of the meeting agenda, “We’ve all been in meetings where participants are unprepared, people veer off-track, and the topics discussed are a waste of the team’s time. These problems — and others like it — stem from poor agenda design.” Get a clear agenda for your meetings and list agenda items as questions that need answers not just bullet points. The agenda should fully support the meeting purpose and outcome.

Be clear on your expectations for attendees. If reading is required or materials are needed, state those expectations in the invite. A day before the meeting, send out the reminder about pre-work. 

Execution Phase

Now the meeting time has arrived, you need to make sure the room or virtual conference is set up.  Setup isn’t always possible in some cases when conference rooms are booked back to back without any time available for testing out the equipment or systems. Set up 10 minutes before the meeting starts. 

As the presenter or facilitator, it can be nearly impossible to present and take notes at the same time.  Consider an audio recording of the meeting if the audio microphones in the room are of high enough quality to capture all the questions. Another alternative is to appoint a person as a note taker for the meeting to capture all the major decisions points, questions, and parking lot items.

Focus on the agenda. If topics come up in conversation that is off topic to the meeting purpose and outcome, put them off to the side or in the “parking lot.” Publish and follow up on “parking lot” items after the meeting is completed.

Wrap Up Phase

This phase occurs near the conclusion of the meeting. Review all decisions and action items. Ownership of action items ensures owners will address action items after the meeting. Set dates for when the attendees could expect a response on the action item. 

Post-Presentation Phase

Send out the meeting notes, a copy of the presentation, parking lot items and action items. Immediately sharing these items after the meeting keeps them fresh in meeting attendee’s minds. Share the meeting recording if the meeting was recorded. You can share the content from the meeting via a file share repository such as SharePoint, Google Drive or other services. It is also important to extend the delivery recipients to include those who could not attend. 


Presentations are a great way to engage your project team and stakeholders to show value within your project activity. Carefully and thoughtfully plan your presentation and meeting. An organized presentation and agenda leave attendees with a positive impression of your communication abilities and organizational skills. 

What other tips would you recommend?

Business Analysis Canvas, Roadmap to Effective BA excellence.

Business Analysis and the role it plays has evolved over time as organizations strive towards refinement, improvement, and optimization.

A Business Analyst is someone whose role and function is ever changing with organizational evolution. The pace of change has increased over the last few years as more and more organizations shift towards a technology enabled future. Technology does provide the opportunity to harness efficiencies in process automation/removal as well as improved speed to change.

To allow for the change it is important for the organization to understand the pivotal role the Business Analyst plays within the realization of organizational development.

The Business Analyst role has developed into a mix of an internal consultant to a financial expert. When I consider the Business Analyst it is with the mindset of an internal consultant supporting the organization throughout the project life cycle.

With this said, I propose the following definition of Business Analyst:

“A business analyst is someone who analyzes and documents business, processes or systems. Assesses and recommending the business model or its integration with technology.”

There were a number of key questions posed whilst conducting research:

  • What are the key questions Business Analysts need to ask?
  • How can a Business Analysis plan be effectively communicated?
  • What supporting documentation would assist all Business Analysts?
  • How can a book become a playbook to support current and future needs of Business Analysts?

Extensive research, personal experience, group work, and collaboration have answered these questions. Each section of this book seeks out to provide insight to the Business Analysis activities to support the Business Analyst complete their duties more efficiently.


The CANVAS is not a magic pill that will resolve all your Business Analysis concerns/issues. It is a flexible approach to complex matters.

That sounds rather grand, what is meant by this statement is the fact that the CANVAS is a robust or troubleshooting tool that can be applied to the most complex of Business Analysis activities in a simple, yet refined manner. The CANVAS is repeatable and easy to share with subject matter experts (SME’s) and other stakeholders.


There are some suggested questions in the sections to follow that will help you build our your Canvas for sharing and communicating with project stakeholders.

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Section – Project Objectives

  1. What are the high-level expectations of the project?
  2. What is the project trying to change/improve/remove?
  3. Is this project part of a larger program, if yes, what is the expectation of the program?
  4. Has there been a project plan development for all project activity (beyond Business Analysis activity)?
  5. Is the business edging towards a specific outcome (try to identify embedded bias within the organization)?
  6. What systems/processes are affected by this project engagement?

Section – Stakeholders

  1. Who are the Stakeholder groups affected by this project?
  2. Where are these Stakeholder groups located?
  3. How complex is each Stakeholder group?
  4. What is the Attitude / Influence of each Stakeholder?
  5. What is the impact of the project on each Stakeholder?
  6. What is the Decision-making Authority of each Stakeholder?

Section – Deliverables

  1. What is the Deliverable key area(s)?
  2. How detailed is the Deliverable required to be?
  3. Is there an opportunity to review previous Deliverables?
  4. What is the approval/sign off expectations for each Deliverable?
  5. What is the sequence of the Deliverables (if more than one)?
  6. What are project dependencies aligned to each Deliverable?

Section – Communication Approach

  1. Who needs to be communicated?
  2. What does each group need to understand in the communication?
  3. What form does each group require?
  4. Who is the owner of this communication transmission?
  5. How often does each communication need to be sent?
  6. Is this communication part of the larger project communication approach?

Section – Key Dates

  1. What is the overall project completion date?
  2. What is the sequence of the project (key tasks/phases)?
  3. When do we expect each key task/phase to be completed?
  4. What are the elements of the key tasks/phases relating to Business Analysis activity?
  5. When is the Business Analysis resource expected to be off boarded from the project?
  6. What is the expected Business Analysis resource availability/allocation on the overall project?

Section – Responsibilities

  1. Who is the project sponsor and steering committee (if available)?
  2. Who are the SME identified for each key Business Analysis Activity?
  3. What are business units in which the Business Analysis activities will take place?
  4. Who are the Talent allocated to the Business Analysis project (who is doing work and producing deliverables)?
  5. Who is accountable for the overall deliverables / Business Analysis Activity and does this person(s) change depending upon the deliverable?

Section – Target Operating Model (TOM)


  1. Will the project affect staffing hours of operating?
  2. Will labor structure change (number of people required to complete the role(s))?
  3. Does the skills/capabilities of the resource base change?


  1. What processes are effected within the future state?
  2. How do these processes change the overall organization value stream?
  3. What are the process dependencies?
  4. What is the customer journey impacts of the change to process?


  1. Which Legacy systems will be impacted by the change?
  2. How is the enterprise architecture impacted by the project activity?
  3. What are the process touch points impacted with technology changes?

Section – Scheduling

  1. How long is the Business Analysis project activity (i.e. when is it starting and expected completed date)
  2. What resources are available to support the Business Analysis activity?
  3. What percentage of the time are these resources allocated to the Business Analysis specific activity (be mindful the resource may be working on other elements of the project beyond the Business Analyst activity)?
  4. What are the deliverables or their sequence?

Explore more of the Business Analysis Canvas:

The Business Analysis Canvas has been designed to quickly be adapted to meet your project needs. The questions help guide the Business Analysis through the steps of gathering and completing the information required to effectively kick off the Business Analysis project.

You can explore more of the CANVAS by downloading CANVAS templates, tools, PowerPoint side decks and additional information from

Effective Presentations – The Basics of Telling Your Story

Regardless of the delivery tool, you utilize to engage and share information within your meeting/workshop there are some basic components required for a good slide deck.

Some of the information below may seem obvious; it has been observed over time that we are skipping the obvious.

What is Presentation?

A presentation is defined as the process of presenting a topic/subject/activity to a preselected audience. Within a business context, you are typically demonstrating, introducing, sharing or discussing a project activity. Each presentation will contain its purpose and objective, and this will be reflected within the main body of the presentation content. One thing that can be consistent is the framework structure to your presentation slide deck.

What Should Be Included in All Presentations:

  • Title Page Slide – Reference the project/program this presentation is part of, plus the topic of today’s presentation. Presenters names and date of presentation are important for the title page. The title page is especially important if you consider this presentation might get physically or electronically shared throughout the company.
  • Objectives / Purpose Slide – The objective can also be identified as the meeting goal. Why is everyone getting together? The purpose is more granular and focuses on the elements that will support your objective. Just a couple of bullet points are fine for this slide. 
  • Agenda / Contents Slide – Breakdown of the key topics and presenters (if different) in the sequence of presentation delivery. 
  • Contents – main content of the presentation. This is dynamic based on the objective of the presentation.
  • Agenda Progress Slide(s) – If the presentation goes on for longer than 20 mins it is a good idea to re-insert the agenda slide with an indication of progress as the presentation moves through different topics or speakers. This allows the audience to understand what is coming next and how much the presentation has progressed.
  • Wrap up Slide – When the presentation is close to conclusion, you need to recap on the key topics discussed and review any action items generated during the presentation.
  • Contact Details Slide – Provide a slide with your name and contact details. Again someone in the future might want to reach out to you to discuss the presentation.
  • Where to find the file Slide – If you are sharing information within the project team, make a reference slide who show the file share repository location for the file. That will allow attendees to share the file quickly amongst their team.

Editor’s Note:

We have all been in the room with an endless boring series of slides being flashed in our eyes. I have enjoyed a good many naps that way. The section below further illustrates and elaborates on the writer’s article above. If you want to see presentations done right, check out TEDTalks. The best presentation I attended was on the topic of paper towels. Check out Joe Smith’s TEDTalk on “How to Use a Paper Towel.” You will never dry your hands the same way again.

Best Practices for Business Analysts Working on BI Projects

Business Intelligence (BI) can be defined as the access and insight (analysis) into information that provides organizations the ability to improve their existing performance.

The BI ecosystem includes a vast array of applications, tools, and techniques. Working as a Business Analyst on a BI project can be a daunting task as the objectives are clear but the route to success less known. One reason for the uncertainty for the route to success is the variety of stakeholders who feel they are accountable for the activities to be undertaken. Additional issues range from technology advancement and legacy system capabilities. The following sections within this article outline the steps to be followed that will elevate the Business Analyst towards a successful project.

Understand the Drivers for Change

Why is the organization embarking upon a Business Intelligence (BI) project, what are the key elements that are pushing the organization? There are some traditional tools that a Business Analyst can apply to identify this driver for change:

  • SWOT analysis (internal and external scan of the organizational position)
  • Vision analysis (What is the organizational vision? What is the impact of Business Intelligence (BI) on that vision?)
  • CMM (Capability Maturity Model analysis allows the organization to identify maturity across a wide range of processes)

Regardless of the tool uses you will need to understand the overall desire for change and the support for this project.

Stakeholder Analysis

Once the drivers are known the next step for the Business Analyst is to analyze the stakeholders involved and impacted by this project. Stakeholder analysis at is simplest form is the ability to list each stakeholder group and identify their interest and influence.

A Business Analyst who correctly identifies each stakeholder group will be able to quickly understand where they may be issues and concerns as the project progresses.

Business Analyst Work Plan

A critical step in the Business Analyst Work Plan (BAWP) activity is to outline the deliverables, timetable for work activity, RACI, and other project engagement activities. The BAWP allows the Business Analyst to share with the organization the expected activity that they will complete as part of this project. The Business Analyst plan enables the organization to refine the activity before too much work has taken place.

Business Intelligence Specific Activities

The first three steps would apply to the majority of Business Analyst project engagements; this step is now more closely aligned to Business Intelligence (BI). When you the Business Analyst is working on BI projects the deliverables list will include some of the following:

  • Data Dictionary (definitions of all data items contained within the data warehouse)
  • Relationship Diagrams (document the data structure of the systems, their relationships, data hierarchies, and data refresh timeline)
  • Architecture Document (Solutions and technical interfaces, hardware, application, connectivity)
  • BI Standards (naming conventions, interface guidelines, reporting structure, UI expectations, security/access)

The Business Analyst will need to facilitate some discussions/workshops with the subject matter experts (SME’s) throughout the enterprise IT department to effectively capture the requirements to support the completion of the above deliverables.

If you are not familiar with the technology and Business Intelligence (BI) environment before commencing work on such a project, I would recommend you speak with the project sponsor or business lead who will be able to outline the project from a business point of view. Having a common reference point from the business to the technology will support your success in the project delivery.

What If You Don’t Follow Best Practices?

Utilizing best practices allows Business Analysts to learn from the experience of others. Of course, you can jump into the Business Intelligence (BI) project and try not to follow the outlined suggestions. Typically, what will happen is the business is excited about the metrics output from the new BI system. They are keen to get everyone in the enterprise utilizing the BI tool for specific metrics. The Business Analyst will focus solely on the output of metrics and its distribution across the business. Getting the first few metrics and dashboards up and running is seen as a success, and the Business Analyst feels their job is completed.

What then happens is data validation, and confidence issues spring up around the business. Users are complaining about the report they run having old / out of date information. They even stop using the BI tool and revert to the more labor intensive source of information (spreadsheets or hardcopy review). The Business Analyst is brought back into the project, and it is quickly identified that there are issues with the refresh cycle of certain data fields or a new table has been added to an ERP system, and it caused issues to the data warehouse. Now you are going to have to work quickly to resolve the issue.

If only you had completed the required deliverables and obtained sign off from the organization, you would not be in this problem.