My name is Nelson and I've decided to create this SOP (Strategical Operational Procedures) about Focus Groups in order to provide background information for some operations that will arise in the scope of Fedora SWOT Analysis, where some strategical points need to be based on Qualitative Research.
Focus Groups provide a cheap and efficient way of performing market research for many ends. I believe that considering the very own nature of the Fedora Project and all the community around it, this method might help providing some information that is relevant for some projects at least in the scope of Fedora Marketing and Fedora Ambassadors, though virtually any Team or Individual contributing for the Fedora Project can use it for many ends, the ultimate handicap of this, is actually YOUR IMAGINATION!.
The present document pretends to approach Focus Groups as a cheap and efficient way of providing interesting Market Research. There are many ways of running focus groups, I've taken the liberty of choosing one of the most popular approaches for the creation of this SOP.
In the future, if anyone pretends to use this procedures on FAD's, FUDCon's or any other event, or even in cross-projects and if you require help with this, please don't hesitate in subscribing the Marketing Mailing List and ask for help regarding this procedures, or eventually contacting me (though I would prefer to ask on the mailing list because your doubts might be other people's doubts, don't be shy!).
A Focus Group is one possible way of doing Qualitative Research by gathering a number of people from your targeted audience and collect information in an interactive way amongst the participants. This method is widely used due to the importance of the feedback obtained and it's cheap costs. Participants are free to discuss amongst themselves, with or without interaction of the moderator.
In many ways this technique can be used by the Fedora Project to collect information regarding several aspects of the community, project or even about Fedora Linux. From my understanding this method should become popular at least amongst:
The main goal of promoting such technique on Fedora Project is to provide a method that can help the Fedora Project fulfilling the gaps in terms of Qualitative Research; by doing such, we can help the Fedora Project in taking a more objective approach on strategical decisions that need to be taken, or even at evaluating the success of campaigns, projects or ventures amongst our community. I see special relevance for such technique specially to perform the following:
- User perception about Fedora Project;
- User perception about Fedora Linux;
- Strength's, Weaknesses recognized by the Fedora Community;
- Helping creating more solid strategical planning within the Fedora Project;
- Provide more qualitative research to the Fedora Project;
- Any other you might remember, as nothing is set on stone! YOUR IMAGINATION defines the boundaries of usage.
This technique can be used at least on the following situations:
- During Linux Install Parties where Fedora is represented;
- During FADs (Fedora Activity Days);
- During FUDCon Events;
- During any other types of events.
From my scope, though everyone can conduct such research, I believe that due to the close relation of the Fedora Ambassadors and Fedora Marketing, and considering their field operations, this are the two groups with better operational deployment conditions to perform this research.
Running a Focus Group
There are many ways of running a focus group, on this document I will not cover all of them, instead I'll set properties that are common to some of them keeping in mind the layers in which the Fedora Community is built upon.
A Focus Group should be performed under the following conditions:
- One or Two moderators - the role of a moderator is to make sure that the discussion between the participants of the focus group is within boundaries of the defined goals. The moderators are responsible for collecting information relevant to the goals of the focus group and elaborate a report based on the very own goals. The moderators do not take active part in the discussion, except by introducing topics and keeping the discussion environment healthy.
- A group of participants - Personally I would recommend between 8 to 12 people for the Focus Group (plus one or two moderators). This group of participants should be representatives of the targeted audience. This is one of the reasons why Fedora Events can become very powerful environments to conduct Qualitative Research.
- A set of 'hot topics' - This topics are the reasons of why the research is being performed. They should be presented in a non-technical way, understandable for all the participants and should provide the general guidelines of the research being conducted.
- Focus Group Layout - I would propose a "U" layout to accomplish this tasks, where all the participants of the focus group are displayed in a "U" layout in front of the moderators. This will allow the moderators to watch for physical signs as well and a set of signs that usually are expressed in an involuntary way by the participants. In addition it also provides a good layout for the participants to discuss amongst themselves the 'hot topics'.
Preparing a Focus Group
This are some general guidelines that can help people preparing a Focus Group. This steps are not all necessary or in many ways other things can be contemplated. I'll try to provide a generic approach on this with the relevant information, which can be complemented with information from any other source available. My goal is to make things as simple as possible.
This is one of the most relevant topics preparing a Focus Group. The Purpose of your focus group should be translated into one objective sentence. This will allow you the following:
- Develop the right questions;
- Purpose statements should be as broad and wide as possible;
- Ask yourself: "Why do we want to know that"; this might lead to a clearer and refined purpose statement. The clearer the statement, the easier it will be to design the rest of the process.
A Focus Group can't be thought off in a short period of time, there should be a plan at least four weeks ahead of the actual session. I will place some general guidelines which are understood to provide the best results, though due to the nature of the Fedora Community, this is actually easier for us to manage, so for the most, this will be bogus information, but can be helpful for someone for any other purpose, so I'm including it.
- Select your Purpose Statement - 4/6 weeks before the session date;
- Identify your participants - 4/6 weeks prior
- Gather address and phone information on the participants - 4/6 weeks prior
- Select the Moderator (also known as facilitator) - 4/6 weeks pior
- Develop the questions - 4/6 weeks prior
- Develop a session script - 4/6 weeks prior
- Arrange and Reserve the session site - 4 weeks prior
- Write and send the invitations - 3/4 weeks prior
- Follow up the invitations with phone calls - 2 weeks prior
- Make room arrangements (seating, equipment, refreshments, etc) - 1 week prior
- Place a reminder call on the participants - 2 days prior
- Gather Session materials - 2 days prior
- Conduct the Focus Group - session date
- Send a "Thank You" letter to the participants - 2 days post event
- Transcribe notes from the session - 2 days post
- Summarize the session and mail summary to the participants - 1 week post
- Analyse sessions and write report - When all information is gathered.
This is basically a 5 stage step; once more due to the nature of the Fedora Project, this can be worked out in another way, but I'll leave relevant information:
- Define how many participants you need and how many to invite (not all invited will come, having some backup is handy);
- Review your purpose statement and develop a list of key attributes to seek in participants;
- Using the list of attributes developed, brainstorm possible participants and categories of participants;
- Refine the list by looking for "two characteristics in common" and "homogeneity and heterogeneity" characteristics in the potential participants;
- Secure names and contact information, finalize the list and send invitations.
Generate: The Questions
Generate: The Script
Select: Place for the session
Conduct: The Focus Group
Interpret and Report Results
Translate: Results into Action
Analysing the Results
This is qualitative research, we don't actually have big mind crushing numbers, just a set of concepts and the feedback provided by the focus group participants.