Even for seasoned professionals the ability to communicate effectively can be a challenging endeavor.
The real question may not be on how to improve. The question may be where to make the improvements. Two of the most common message types that are delivered as outputs of service management processes are incident and change notifications.
My simple advice is to personally connect with the audience wherever you can. In the service management space, we need to ensure that we communicate consistently in language that the business community understands. If I have said this once, I have said it a thousand times: It’s not about you; it’s about the audience.
Challenge #1: Targeted Audience
Not everyone needs to know everything. While we may believe that we are being more transparent by telling everyone everything, what really happens is that the communications that we send (no matter what the delivery method) starts to become white noise. The risk is that no one is reading the communications at all.
Remedy: Ensure that you are only telling people what they need to know based on direct impact to them. For example, if I were to send you the weather report for the city Saskatoon every day there may be little value unless the weather was impacting critical infrastructure in that city, the staff all lived there or regularly traveled there. It is important to understand the business you are servicing so that you send communications for incidents or change that can be targeted correctly.
Challenge #2: Targeted Content
The wider the net of communication, the more sanitized the content becomes. We do not need to overcomplicate the communication with technical details; however, the communication should be meaningful enough for the audience to read the information itself.
Remedy: Outline what the impact of the incident or change will be. Are there any actions that the person reading the communication will need to perform? Are these actions outlined in a way that they can be easily understood without creating more questions? Once again, if you understand the business you are serving you will have a message that is meaningful to the audience.
Challenge #3: Communicate about Communication
Effective communication requires us to continually work on it. Discuss with people in the business to understand how well the communications we are delivering are working. Are we capturing details such as business impact? While our intentions to communicate may be good we need to review with those consuming the content that it is still hitting the mark.
Remedy: To communicate effectively you need to discuss with your business the importance of the communication itself. Actually meet with the stakeholders in the business to ensure that they understand the intent of the communication process as a whole and if adjustments need to be made. Some business units may want a different delivery method and timing than others, so listen to them.
It all starts with talking with your business and keeping the discussion going, so that we have a strategy and approach to communication rather than treating it as an output to a process.
Challenge #4: Push vs Pull
In many cases there is the expectation that communication needs to be delivered through some manner of push notification. If this is assumed this too should be reviewed with the business. Depending on how you provide support there may be a place for people in the business to pull their own communications or access them in a place where they may interface with support resources on a self-service portal.
Remedy Some business units may want a different delivery method and timing than others, so listen to them. It all starts with talking with your business and keeping the discussion going, so that we have a strategy and approach to communication rather than treating it as an output to a process.
Overall your ability to be an effective communicator will require you to have meaningful discussions with the people who you are communicating with. The needs of the business are ever evolving so just when you think that you may have met their needs you still need to work at it to ensure long lasting success.