A focus group is a way of gathering ideas and opinions about a particular product or service in a collective group environment. The participants, led by a facilitator, would express their opinions, inclination, and needs.
A focus group is made up of suitable contributors whose goal is to talk about and comment on a subject within a context. The contributors share their views and attitudes about a subject and discuss them in a group setting.
The facilitator should be experienced enough to manage the preparation session, assist in contributor selection, and moderate the session. If the facilitator is not the business analyst, they may work with the business analyst to assess the results and produce results that are then communicated to the stakeholders.
A focus group can be used at different points in an initiative to document information in an interactive way. If the group’s subject is a product under development, the group’s ideas are analyzed in relation to the requirements. This could lead to an update in the existing requirements or the discovery of new requirements.
If the subject is a completed product that is about to be launched, the group’s report could affect its market placement. If the subject is a product in production, the group’s report may help with the alterations on the next release. A focus group could also be used to assess the customer satisfaction with a product.
There are some components of focus groups, which include:
1. Focus group objective: the facilitator has to have a clear and specific goal for the focus group. The questions are created and discussions are moderated with the aim of achieving the goal.
2. Focus group plan: The focus group plan guarantees that all the stakeholders are aware of the cause of the focus group and agree on the expected results.
The focus group plan describes tasks that include:
• Purpose: this involves creating questions that fulfill the objective, identify important subjects to be discussed, and advise if discussion guides would be used or not.
• Location: this is used to decide if the session would be in-person or online, as well as which location will be used.
• Logistics: this is used to decide on the room size and set up, what other provisions may be needed, transportation options, and the time of the session.
• Participants: this is used to identify the demographics of the participants, if any observers are needed, who the facilitators and recorders will be and potential incentives which may be offered to the participants.
• Budget: this is used to calculate the costs of the session and guarantee that resources are assigned appropriately.
• Timelines: this is used to decide on the time when the session will be held, as well as when the final reports from the focus group are expected.
• Outcomes: this is used to identify how the results will be evaluated, communicated and what actions would be taken based on the results.
3. Participants: to ensure that the focus group is successful, the contributors have to take an active part in the discussion and offer their opinions and listen to the opinions of the other contributors on the subject. A focus group is usually made up of 6 to 12 attendees.
4. Discussion guide: A discussion guide is used to guide the facilitator on the questions and subject for discussion in order to meet the goal of the session.
A discussion guide usually has the following information: how the facilitator is to welcome and introduce the participants, how the goal of the session should be explained, how the session would be run, and how the results would be used.
5. Assign a facilitator and recorder: The facilitators job is to be both knowledgeable on the initiative and keep the session on track. Facilitators have to be unbiased, adaptable and flexible.
The recorder takes notes to make sure that the participant’s opinions are accurately documented. The business analyst can fill the role of either the moderator or the recorder. The moderator and recorder are not deemed active participants in the focus group session and do not submit feedback on the subject.
6. Conduct the focus group: The facilitator directs the group’s discussion, follows a prepared script of identified issues, and ensures that the goals are fulfilled. A session is usually one to two hours in length.
7. After the focus group: The results of the focus group are documented soon after the session has ended. The business analyst analyzes and documents the participants’ comments, looks for patterns in the responses, and creates a report that summarizes the results.
Focus groups have their strengths and limitations, which include:
- It provides a way of gathering data from a group of people in a single session which saves both time and costs as compared to individual interviews with the same number of people.
- It provides a useful way of studying people’s views, experiences, and desires.
- It creates an environment in which the contributors can consider their personal views in relation to other people’s perspectives.
- Online focus groups are useful when the participants are distributed geographically.
- In a group setting, participants may be reluctant to discuss sensitive or personal topics.
- Group think could influence the results of the session.
- The facilitator must be skilled enough to manage the session.
- Online focus groups may restrict association between participants.