For those of you that read this blog you will know that I am a huge fan of the book “Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers”
I use many of the techniques presented when running requirements gathering workshops for SharePoint and one that I am particularly fond of is the Cover Story game.
A clear, compelling vision for SharePoint is a must if want to have the best chances of success. However simply asking a bunch of stakeholders the question “So what is the vision for SharePoint?” is probably not going to get you the results that you are hoping for. An effective way to get users to describe their vision for SharePoint is the Cover Story game. As taken from the Dave Gray’s blog:
Cover Story is a game about pure imagination. The purpose is to think expansively around an ideal future state for the organization; it’s an exercise in visioning. The object of the game is to suspend all disbelief and envision a future state that is so stellar that it landed your organization on the cover of a well-known magazine. The players must pretend as though this future has already taken place and has been reported by the mainstream media. This game is worth playing because it not only encourages people to “think big,” but also actually plants the seeds for a future that perhaps wasn’t possible before the game was played
The reason that this works particularly well for SharePoint is that there are a number of possible visions that an organization may have for the platform. The Cover Story game gives you enough structure to ensure that you get tangible examples without constraining users from being able to really explore the many possible end states.
Running the game
In order to play the game you break down your users into groups of between 4 and 6. Ensure that each group has markers and get them to fill in the template below which is usually printed on a big poster stuck to a wall.
Explain the object of the game is to define each category on the template:
- Cover: Tells the story of their big success
- Headline: The substance of the cover story
- Sidebars: Interesting facts about the story
- Quotes: Quotes from potential end users of the solution
- Brainstorm: documenting initial ideas (this is important!)
- Images: Supporting the content with illustrations
At the end of the time period, usually an hour, get the groups to present their cover story, essentially their vision of SharePoint, to the rest of the groups and then discuss.
Real World Example
I ran this game with a large financial organization (lets call them FinCorp) that was implementing a search solution on the SharePoint platform. Seeing how search can be leveraged in different ways to address different needs I was interested to determine the vision of the search solution. Here are some of the results:
- “FinCorp Search provides slick, smart service”
- “Fincorp search promotes knowledge sharing with other departments thus driving down costs”
- “FinCorp search reduces the time to find experts and allowing greater customer satisfaction”
- “FinCorp search allows users to find what they need and allow them to express the opinions on search”
Some pretty interesting statements there and after drilling down further a number of different possible visions presented themselves. If you notice search was leveraged in a few different ways: promoting knowledge sharing, finding experts, allowing people to express the opinion on search. It was not all about just ‘Search will help me find stuff quicker” but it was really more about being able to connect people and share knowledge easier. All great information for the SharePoint Analyst when the time comes to prioritize the areas for requirements elicitation.
- “Not only can I find WHAT I need, but I can find WHO I need as well”
- “I love it that I can connect with other employees to find a running partner through our people search”
- “As a new employee I can put a name to a face quickly so I become part of FinCorp’s family quicker”
- “I knew that we had the information somewhere inside FinCorp, now I know where”
- “Not only did I find what I was looking for, but I also found related content that led me to new ideas”
Once again the quotes were interesting. A strong theme that emerged was that searching for people was just as important as content (great information for you search requirements gathering plan as a focus area) and that finding related content was almost as important as the content that you were looking for.
However some other interesting themes emerged. For FinCorp helping people connect, both socially and professionally, was very important and search can be leveraged for that as well. In addition this organization was trying to become more agile and innovative in its practices. Exposing related content and popular keywords was also very important.
So what was the outcome of this workshop for us:
- We knew that since people were just as important as content that we really had to target requirements gathering activities at both content but also all the elements for a successful people search solution ( User Profiles, Taxonomy Terms, Custom Profile Fields and so on)
- We found that by introducing a 'Related Keywords' webpart on the search result page that users will be exposed to other items of interest, encouraging them to explore topic areas outside their immediate interest
- We allowed users to rate their search experience and suggest best bets which was hugely popular
Of course I haven't done a great job in explaining the many details of the game but I would encourage you to buy the Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers book and read it for yourself. The Cover Story exercise really promotes people thinking outside the box in an environment that allows for great conversation and ideas to come forth.
If you are starting on your SharePoint journey and need your stakeholders to articulate their vision for SharePoint then try using this technique, you will find that it will product some fantastic results.