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Know Your Audience: Don’t let your requirements get lost in translation

In my line of work, we have working sessions between Business system users and IT. In these sessions, the IT people demonstrate innovations that might add value to the business. I recently attended a session where a particular IT team had come up with a way to improve a business process through a system optimization. Due to my little appreciation of technical jargon I got the concept that they were selling and as you guessed, it was a TOTAL DISASTER!!! The business user community was hardly captivated, and they did not buy into the concept. It was tossed out.

Why did the concept fail to gain an audience? Simple answer: Right message, wrong language.

The IT team had a brilliant idea of how to improve a business process but did not know how to deliver the message. Their presentation was full of technical jargon that the business hardly understood. The essence of the solution was lost in translation and was not well received. The IT team forgot about the basics of communication, know your audience. The IT team did not tailor their message to their audience. Had they done so, words such as “xsd” could have become “format”. The art of communication is getting the message across and being heard. Knowing who you are communicating to and how they prefer to receive communication can achieve this.

In order to succeed as a Business Analyst, one must be an effective communicator. We communicate scope, risks, issues, and more importantly, business requirements and needs. The communication required by a Business Analyst is to restate business requirements so that we deliver solutions that address business needs and derive value for our stakeholders. Knowing your recipients of a communication piece is crucial in your quest to deliver the right solutions by understanding that you are on the same page with the consumers of information.


So how does one get to know the audience? Answer: Do your homework.

Leave no stone unturned in your task to know who is going to receive the message.

Business Analysts can be efficient communicators with stakeholders if they do the following:

1. List your communication objectives

Be clear why you need to communicate. Is it to clarify requirements? Is it to present new ideas? Put down a list of objectives you want to achieve through communication and use this list as a guide when you plan for the communication. The objectives identified will dictate your success criteria.

2. Plan for communication
A plan requires preparation. Always have a plan for communication. You to perform a rigorous stakeholder (audience) analysis exercise so that you know your stakeholders. Stakeholder analysis will answer important questions such as:

  1. Who is going to receive the piece of communication?
  2. How formal must I be in the communication?
  3. What language should I use?
  4. What is the best time to deliver the message?
  5. Which venue suits the delivery of the message?

Answering the questions above will help you formulate a plan and be ready to deliver the message in an appropriate manner.

A tool that I suggest employing for this step is the RACI matrix. It helps identify your stakeholders and determine when, what, and how to communicate to them.

3. Deliver the message

Make sure you know what you are communicating. You need to be an expert. If you are presenting to a group of people, rehearse your presentation beforehand, anticipate questions, and prepare answers. Your tone matters, show passion and belief in your message. The audience will respond to positive energy exuded by showing passion.

4. Measure your communication success

Be mindful of the objectives you have set and measure how well you have fared in achieving them.

There are ways to can gauge how well your message has been received depending on the mechanism employed for the communication

Mechanism Ways to gauge
One-on-one conversation
  • Read the body language
  • Types of questions asked by the other party
  • Contributions of the other party to the conversation
  • Ask questions
Presentation to a group
  • Read the body language
  • Types of questions asked by the audience
  • Contributions by the audience to the subject
  • Pick up the phone and call the recipient(s)
  • Responses to the email

5. Learn from your experiences

This is probably the most important step. Learn, learn, learn and adapt. Please learn. I repeat the word learn because the adage “experience is the best teacher” holds true in this situation. If you have used a particular method of communication that has not worked, please do not use it again. Find a different way to communicate with those types of stakeholders. Tweak everything you do until you find that sweet spot.

I leave you with a favourite quote of mine:

“The basic building block of good communications is the feeling that every human being is unique and of value.” – Unknown

Until next time. Keep well

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