My name is Nelson and I've decided to create this SOP (Sort of Pain) 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 (specially when compared to quantitative research). 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 sentence that can be wider and broad; this will allow you to develop the right questions. One possible way to improve or test your 'Purpose' Statement is to ask yourself "Why do we want to know that?". This can provide you with a refined purpose statement and eventually ease up 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.
To make this concept clear in a more generic way, I will use a practical example. For the conclusion of our SWOT Analysis we need to know the perceptions that Fedora users have about the Fedora Project. One way of understanding this is by a focus group. Organizing a focus will take time, and before the event (the focus group session), a lot has to be defined previously according to time lines. I will present some valid possible steps for this operation:
- Build up a 'purpose statement' - A possible purpose statement would be: "What does the Fedora Project stand for you?".
- Select your participants amongst your target audience - the target audience would be: current Fedora users.
- Gather address and phone information on the participants - If the focus group is planned and you decide to invite people or have them volunteered, this is relevant as it is ethical that you provide them with a reminder before the event (SMS, email, letter, etc), and after the event a 'Thank you' letter with a transcription and summary of the event.
- Select the Moderators - There should be one or two moderators. In this case you should identify them.
- Build a question list and a session script - prepare a question list and a session script to conduct the focus group. This will greatly help you as Moderator and provide a logical time frame for the session.
- Arrange/Reserve the session site - Make sure you make all the arrangements for the session site prior to the session (at least 1 week). Also consider to make the necessary arrangements for seating, equipment, refreshments, etc.
- Contact your participants by phone to make confirmations - This can happen, but due to the nature of the Fedora Community a good place to use this events would be Fedora events, which render this option a bit useless, unless...
- Transcribe the notes - The notes gathered during the event need to be transcribed after the event.
- Analyse the notes/transcriptions and produce a report - There should be a report about the event with all the information collected.
Don't forget to send a "thanks" or "thank you" letter/e-mail to your participants. This can be done later on and you can send a session summary also to the participants.
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
Keeping in mind the "purpose statement" and the feedback you need to collect, generate a list of questions to present to your participants.
Generate: The Script
Create a script for the session contemplating the time available and the input you need to collect from your participants.
Select one or two moderators. Usually the person organizing the focus group is one of the Moderators. An auxiliary moderator can be also used.
Select: Place for the session
Make sure you have arranged a place for the session which is peaceful and where you don't get interrupted. Also make sure that you know what equipment you are going to require (furniture, refreshments, etc).
Interpret and Report Results
The results of the Focus Group are to be interpreted based on the notes and information collected on the focus group. Usually this is translated into a Focus Group report. Due to licensing on the Wiki I won't be able to provide one now, though I will link future work at a later stage developed by the Marketing Group related to our SWOT as a practical example.
Translate: Results into Action
The final step is about understanding the results and using them to perform something. In most cases this can be a strategical measure to correct inaccuracies or eventually to support or define new strategies. There should be a practical example coming soon.
The goal of a running a Focus Group is to collect qualitative information for example for market research, brand notoriety, etc. The focus group should provide the information you need, this is why it is important to have a good script and a good idea on what you require to know. If everything is done properly, the result of the focus group will be information that will confirm or refute your purpose statement. The final result is displayed on a document, often a report that will include a transcription of the Focus Group, the information gathered and a set of possible measures to apply if necessary.