In a Business Analyst’s day, we are constantly communicating. If we are not communicating then we are planning communication packages for our Business Analysis information packages. We are the bridge of communication from all the stakeholders to our development teams and back around again. How can we ensure that our bridge never collapses? We need to ensure that our communication skill set is not only strong but flexible.
The BABOK 3.0 has a chapter dedicated to communication skills. It states that the core competencies are verbal communication, non-verbal communication, written communication, and listening. Let’s look at these a little more closely:
- Verbal Communication – “Business Analyst use verbal communication to convey ideas, concepts, facts, and opinions to a variety of stake holders” BABOK V3-9.4.1
Effective verbal communication is imperative in the workplace. We facilitate meetings, workshops and interviews that all require verbal communication. I believe the success of mastering this skill is actually not to talk too much. You may say that is counter intuitive, but as a business analyst you want people talking to you. We are constantly eliciting feedback, pain points and requirements.
So how do we get people talking? Usually by asking open ended questions. The purpose of an open-ended question is to build off the topic. There are some power phrases like “tell me how you feel about”, “What is your opinion on”, and/or “Explain how this works”. These types of question can sometimes catch the recipient off guard and will require them to pause and think before they answer you, so give them time to formulate what they are thinking. Closed ended questions can be asked for further clarification.
- Non-Verbal Communication – “Non-verbal communication skills enable the effective sending and receiving of messages through-but not limited to-body movement, posture, facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact.” BABOK V3-9.4.2
How many times have you heard “it is not what you said but how you said it”? A lot of times this falls into our non-verbal communication, specifically the tone we are using. Sometimes we may be stressed or rushed and people catch us off guard, when this happens our tone can be short or crass. We must be conscience of these types of situations. Slow down and give your recipient your undivided attention.
My biggest fear early in my career was public speaking. I couldn’t talk to more than two people in a room. My solution to this problem was to take a course in public speaking. In doing this, I learned what non-verbal communication was all about and I found out that I already knew the skills because I was taught these skills in early childhood. Stand up straight, look a person in the eye when they are talking to you, and smile. The key is to be aware of how other people are perceiving you when you are communicating with them.
- Written Communication - “Business analysts use written communication to convey ideas, concepts, facts, and opinions to variety of stakeholders.” BABOK V3-9.4.3
We are professional and it shows the most in our written communication. If you were not an English major in college then I highly recommend that you seek out a business writing course. You will learn the proper written business etiquette and effective business communication.
We write requirements, business needs and emails daily. We must effectively communicate what we are thinking and/or what was said to us in written form. The communication should be written so your audience can understand the topic and without emotion. A poorly written communication could end up being unclear or even offensive. A properly written document can be used to give a clear understanding of a topic.
- Listening - “Effective listening allows the business analyst to accurately understand information that is communicated verbally.” BABOK V3-9.4.4
Listening is the partner to our first point of Verbal Communication, they work in tandem. With listening take the learning approach. We all gave the teacher our undivided attention, we did not interrupt them and we kept an open mind. If we use this same approach when listening to our peers they are going to feel like they have been heard. It will build a trusting relationship by displaying a genuine interest in what they are saying.
The outcome of effective listening is the interpretation of what is being said verbally. This interpretation is critical in accurately understanding the information being conveyed. To do this, we should be using active listening skills. Often repeating what has been said back to the recipient and asking clarifying questions for understanding. If this is not done then it is possible that a misinterpretation can happen.
No matter the communication style; all communications have two parts the sender and the recipient. We play both parts in each communication skill. Our outcome is either to communicate or receive accurate information with a limited misinterpretation. Our written communications will be easier to understand. Mastering these skills will help us build long term relationships with our stakeholders and advance our careers. While these skills seam easy they can take years to master. No one of the sills is really used in isolation. One skill flows to the next. Working on them individually will improve your communication skills as a whole.
IIBA, BABOK V3, Toronto: International Institute of business Analysis, 2015. Print