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The use of focus groups for user requirements analysis
chapterposted on 13.06.2006, 12:49 by Martin Maguire
Focus Groups are a cost-effective way of assessing user and customer requirements for IT (information technology) systems or products. However, specifying such requirements is not a simple process. Understanding the working or domestic activities of users that may be supported by future IT systems can be a lengthy process if carried out on an individual basis and by observation. There may be many categories of user and stakeholder whose different perspectives and requirements need to be elicited and prioritised. Thus the concept of assembling groups of users and stakeholders to discuss their current activities or ideas on a particular topic can be a simple and quick way to help establish user requirements. This chapter examines the role of focus groups as a method for specifying user requirements for IT systems. Three distinctive styles of focus group are identified. These relate to: (1) current activities and needs, (2) new design concepts, and (3) review of developing prototypes. A series of case studies is presented to illustrate the use of focus groups for different stages of the system development lifecycle. Comments on the approach taken within each case study are given and guidelines offered on running successful requirements focus groups in the future.