Delphi is a controlled process that is designed to achieve either concensus on the likelihood of a forecasted outcome or an agreed prioritisation of a set of outcomes or circumstances. Both of these achievements provide a high order of confidence supporting decision making on protocols and business processes.
In the original version of Delphi a series of questions were asked of a panel of experts in a number of rounds, in the first round the experts answered questions and then in the subsequent rounds the experts were asked to evaluate their approval or otherwise for the statements from the first round in order to seek concensus. This is the view of a classical Delphi process.
An improved outcome can be achieved by using a smaller panel of specialists to assist in defining the questions, prior to the first round, facilitated by an independent Delphi expert, this preliminary round seeks to create a preferred strategy for addressing the issues prior to the study to achieve this the panel is asked to identify as many of the issues that they can in preparation for the first round of detailed questionnaires to go out to the wider group.
The wider group are invited to respond to the questionnaires which may be sent out via email or ideally using an online system. They are given sufficient background information about the project and then encouraged to respond to the questionnaires providing both quantitative feedback and also comments which are analysed.
Once the phase responses have been received an acknowledgement is sent out normally with an interim summary of results to date and the upcoming program of what will happen next.
In the first analysis phase all of the responses are assessed by Delphi analysts who work systematically, statistically and also subjectively to properly understand comments made. Where there is a high degree of agreement then the questions are published back to the group and other aspects of the questionnaire where agreement has not yet been reached are further broken down to represent then to the panel.
The process is repeated until agreement and consistency have been achieved with a high level of confidence at which point the outcome is formally summarised in a report which is written by Delphi and the draft sent back to the panel for review and final comments.
Frequently the report is published both to the client and subsequently to selected journals.