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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oh The Joys of Communication OR Lack Thereof

Communication is 90% or more of a business analyst job in my opinion, but great communication skills is not only the responsibility of just the the business analyst but also the project team as whole.  In order to have a cohesive and collaborative team communication has to be tight.  How the project team communicates with each other is key.  However, when the time comes for trainings, such as communication, is offered I consistently see these types of trainings or courses not heavily attended when up against topics like agile, business rules, or business architecture to name a few.  Don't get me wrong I'm not taking away from any of those courses because we need to keep up with what is going on in the industry and learn those things; however, we can never forget the fundamentals.  

One of the skills a business analyst needs to have (this is not optional) is great communication.  We communicate all day long to gather requirements and consult.  This is not a skill that can be lacking and not a skill that can be easily forgotten to sharpen as opportunities arise to do so.  It's an important skill that will either make you or break you as a business analyst as well as make or break your project. Whether you do face to face meetings or virtual meetings you have to be an effective communicator not only to articulate your needs but to also capture the needs of your stakeholders.

However, it's not only the business analyst who is responsible for strengthening these skills but all those on the project team.  This is a skill we all need.  As I've had the pleasure of being the project management field for over 15+ years wearing multiple hats there are some common communication pitfalls that should be avoided:

  • When on a conference call or in person, let the person speaking finish their thoughts/statements before making a statement.  I have found that on conference calls people have a tendency to just cut other people off while they are speaking.  The message you are conveying to the person speaking is that what he/she saying is not important.  Though that may not be your intent that is how it can perceived.  It can also set a precedence with that person to not speak up if he/she cannot finish their thoughts.  That is not what you want because if the team is to be cohesive and collaborative everyone's opinion counts.
  • Never start a sentence with, "You Need To...".  This automatically puts the other person on the defensive.  You can get your point across by maybe saying, "Maybe we should try" or even "I think we should take this approach because of "X"". 
  • When in person and you are speaking to someone watch your body language.  Your body helps to convey your message so though your message may be positive your body language can turn that positive message to a negative really quickly.
  • Be flexible in switching up your communication style (some types of communication styles are: aggressive, passive, assertive).  Not everyone can be approached the same way.  Get to learn your audience and determine their likes and dislikes and adjust your communication style.  This takes the skill of building relationships which is not something everyone is comfortable with but to be a successful business analyst you have to be comfortable with forming and building relationships.
  • Get to know your communication style.  Know thyself.  It's important that you know who you are and how you communicate to fully understand how to communicate with others.
I interact with people all day long and one of the most frustrating things I have found is that people are not considerate of others and how their actions impact others. Take a minute and think about what you say before you say it and the consequences of what you say. Communication is key on any project team, and life in general. The majority of the misunderstandings come about because people don't think about the message they are conveying and how they are conveying it.

As business analysts do all you can do to effectively communicate.  It's important.  When courses are offered around communication or other soft skills take them because if you have learned one thing from that course it's worth it.  All of it will make you a stronger and well rounded BA.

Best Regards,
Paula Bell

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