5 Business Communications Pitfalls to Avoid

Published: 29th December 2008
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Critical to the success of a business analyst, project manager, or even a business and project in general, are good communications skills. While new technology has eliminated many face-to-face interactions, it has also facilitated communications by allowing those in remote locations to speak directly. A solid knowledge of effective communications tactics is as critical as ever when working to achieve business objectives.

This is particularly true for those individuals whose job it is to facilitate business communications in order to effectively complete projects. Business analysts and project managers must be able to both give and elicit information from project sponsors to meet requirements and sponsor expectations.

Yet it is easy for business analysts and project managers to fall into counterproductive communications patterns. Elizabeth Larson, CBAP, PMP, and Richard Larson, CBAP, PMP of Watermark Learning, experts in business analysis and project management training, have outlined the following five common communications mistakes to avoid in order to ensure project success.

Timing When communications break down regarding the timing of a project, important elements can slip through the cracks. Many business analysis and project management professionals feel they are not given adequate time to gather project management requirements.

Conversely, project sponsors often do not have the time to fully explain their requirements and expectations due to other responsibilities and commitments. This timing miscommunication can result in requirement deficits that often account for 25 to 40 percent of a project budget. Avoid the timing pitfall by clearly articulating time concerns from project inception.

Requirements Equal Expectations It is easy for business analysis and project management professionals to take project requirements at face value. However, many project sponsors' requirements differ from their expectations. Take a consultative approach to communications and asking the proper questions to uncover the true expectations of a project's outcome.

Poor Questioning When questioning a project sponsor to elicit expectations and fully flush out requirements, improper questioning techniques are often used. Too many open ended questions can unnecessarily complicate a discussion, and focusing on the features rather than usability of a product outcome can throw a discussion off track.

Project managers and business analysts must keep their assumptions out of their questions and maintain a professional attitude in order to effectively question project sponsors.

Technique Repetition The same techniques will not work for every project. Avoid the trap of following what has worked in the past or what is usually done by evaluating the project sponsors and the project itself, and selecting appropriate communications techniques based on that.

Solution Acceptance Avoid just accepting solutions imposed by other business and technical stakeholders. This leads to a failure of meeting important requirements. Keep project expectations and requirements in mind, and work with other stakeholders to find solutions acceptable to all.

By avoiding these five communications mistakes, business analysts and project management professionals can better perform their jobs and ensure project outcomes meet the expectations of sponsors and stakeholders alike.

The professionals at Watermark Learning are committed to providing practical advice for project managers and business analysts and offer a variety of project management and business analysis resources.

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