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QA pros need effective communication skills

Working with the business side requires IT professionals to build effective communication skills.

There is often a communication gap between IT professionals and the business people they work with. How do IT pros...

build effective communication skills to overcome that gap?

No problem can be fixed unless you first acknowledge that one exists. Many software developers, architects and other IT professionals know there is a tendency for IT and business to talk past each other with alarming frequency. As the designer, architect or IT expert, you shoulder the bigger burden to overcome this divide. Why does effective communication fall on IT? The business side may see an IT pro as a salesperson, an evangelist, a source of reference, the person doing the installation or all of the above. Here are 5 useful tips you can use:

Why does effective communication fall on IT? The business side may see an IT pro as a salesperson, an evangelist, a source of reference, the person doing the installation or all of the above.

Since language is the key problem, own it and find a linguistic middle ground. This means speak in plain English with no industry jargon and no acronyms. All executives, no matter how tech-savvy they are, have one thing in common: Their time is at a premium. Always strive for simplicity.

Explain how this new product will increase the business' bottom line, especially if it is for a small business. For larger companies, explain how the product resolves an issue you were retained to fix. Remember, certain jobs require a collaborative effort. Be patient, flexible and listen carefully, which is not as easy as it seems.

When it comes to deadlines for project completion, be realistic. This means you should under promise and over deliver. It also demands that you say what you mean and mean what you say. Being specific about what is needed and when the job will be completely done saves you from any misunderstandings. Entire business operations can hinge on your timeline.

It is helpful to set a series of mini goals rather than one big one. This provides a sense of achievement for everyone seeing the proverbial light at the end of a tunnel. It also enables important questions to be asked and answered in real time.

Finally, perhaps the biggest challenge is slippage. By this I mean the inevitable desire to return to your linguistic comfort zone. Be aware that this can be problematic, and take a time out relative to where you are in the day if you need to regroup. It can be anything from a quick coffee break to a regular lunch break that's just a few minutes earlier than anticipated. The idea is to step away, get refreshed and return focused again.

Remember, even if you have designed a game-changing piece of software, promoting effective communication skills between software developers, architects and business people is essential to your ultimate success.

This was last published in May 2014

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