After recently attending a couple of conferences with business analysts and project managers, I noticed a common theme about the topics presented this year. Many speakers devoted their energies to discussing the importance and complexity of effective project communication. This topic was articulated in a number of presentation topics such as: how to work with virtual teams, how to manage stakeholders, how to elicit business requirements, how the BA and PM can work in harmony, designing a sure-fire stakeholder strategy, how to leverage your emotional intelligence, communicate, communicate, communicate, how to understand stakeholder needs, etc. The topics were each different but had common threads highlighting the need to focus on improving our soft skills to better understand the individuals we work with on our projects. The goal to achieve excellent project results begins when we know how to build good relationships with fellow team members and stakeholders through careful listening skills and attention to diverse personal styles.  I think the topic is popular because so many of us still struggle to handle communication successfully. How you need to communicate changes from project to project whenever you have new stakeholders depending on their attitudes, culture, and preferences.

Business analysts are able to adapt their communication style to their audience to effectively communicate requirements.  It is often said that business analysis is part science and part art. The science focuses on hard skills such as learning different analysis tools and techniques. The other part is the soft skills which include communication, facilitation, conflict management, persuasion and negotiation, leadership, etc. These skills are sometimes thought to be easy to master.  Often overlooked are the clues about stakeholder personal styles and preferences that could help us to develop closer relationships with our project stakeholders. Business analysts who plan for stakeholders’ diverse needs and concerns are likely to communicate more effectively than those who do not.

How difficult are the soft skills for you? Is this an area where you think you need help or do you feel like this is the easiest part of business analysis?

Do you have any tips for successful communication?

For more on this subject please see the bridgeFall issue 2007

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