The Center of Analytics Success Takes on Communication Skills

July 29, 2013
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As technical skills such as programming, application development, and “Big Data” infrastructure management take on added importance, it is imperative analytics professionals also develop their “softer” business skills such as communication. Indeed, a lack of proper communication skills on the part of analytic sponsors and staff could have significant repercussions for the long term viability of an analytics program.

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As technical skills such as programming, application development, and “Big Data” infrastructure management take on added importance, it is imperative analytics professionals also develop their “softer” business skills such as communication. Indeed, a lack of proper communication skills on the part of analytic sponsors and staff could have significant repercussions for the long term viability of an analytics program.

Some would argue, at least for IT professionals, that technical skills trump communication skills. However, for “Big Data” project success, communication matters more than ever, especially when trying to gain agreement from line of business managers, EVPs, CEOs and Board of Directors to fund, build and staff your project team.

In fact, in most companies the story goes something like this: after conceptualizing the business problem and getting initial buy-in management to move forward, you’ll need to write the business plan, collaborate with myriad stakeholders, negotiate various trade-offs, and work with Finance to calculate assorted financial projections such as TCO, IRR and ROI.

Then you’ll once you’ve achieved buy-in from Finance, Accounting, Legal, HR, LOB leaders and more, you’ll need to build your executive leadership team presentation and yes…actually deliver the presentation to senior leadership or the Board with aplomb.

And even when you get an analytics implementation started, you’ll surely need communication skills to report on milestone progress, goals achieved and current/future business results. You may also have to communicate technical concepts to people without such skills. In short, it can be argued that communication skills are at the heart of “success or failure” in getting an analytics program off the ground and running. 

Still not convinced? An analyst at a global advisory firm says that communication skills are an “area for improvement” for CIOs—especially for individuals who want to “help lead the transformation of their companies.” And another study found that 41% of survey respondents suggested communication skills were even more important than technical skills to ensure IT success!

If you are Linus Torvalds, perhaps you don’t have to worry about superb communication skills. However, that’s not good advice for the rest of us. And if you’re lacking compelling communication skills, fear not. There are multiple avenues available to help you brush up on skills such as writing, presenting, negotiating, and interpersonal communication. And some of these executive education programs might be covered by employer tuition reimbursement.

Technical skills and programming languages come and go, usually replaced by the next big thing. But communication skills never go out of style. In terms of business and technical communications, concise and impactful writing helps document objectives, deliverables, timelines and results in an accessible manner. And the ability to present ideas effectively—with persuasive confidence—can help fill the gap between “great idea” and actual project funding.