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The Role of Effective Communication in Project Management

9/22/2020 | Updated: 11/18/2021 by IEC Staff

Effective communication is one component critical to IT project success. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), “a startling 56% of projects are at risk due to ineffective communications”. Furthermore, researchers stated that there is an art and science of communication with business project stakeholders on a complex project, and this communication could affect the success of a project.

I had firsthand experience with this recently at my side hustle job (Outdoor Power Equipment repair). A customer came in and requested a replacement cutting blade for his push mower. Simple enough, we looked at the blade he had brought in, found the part number stamped on it, found the replacement blade with the matching part number, rang up the sale, and the customer was on his way.

Until the phone rang 30 minutes later, the customer informed us that the blade did not fit; how could that be? We had matched up the part number, visually confirmed the size of the old and new. What did we miss?

Was there a breakdown in communication with this simple request? What had gone wrong?

Let’s take a closer look.

In this first picture is the old blade that the customer brought in, highlighting the part that did not fit.

And here in this second picture

is the new blade we sold to the customer based on the part number on his original blade.

In this third picture is the blade the customer needed.

Note that there is no star in the center.

Now, if you go back to the first picture, you can start to decipher the story.

If you look closely, you can see markings indicating that someone drilled additional holes in the blade. What was not immediately evident was that the customer had taken an old blade and repurposed it. A question that we usually wouldn’t have asked unless given a reason to ask.

The same thing occurs in Information Technology; without clear communication, the customer will not get the expected outcome. In my experience, there are three keys to avoiding problems: Documenting the current environment, Asking clarifying questions, and Feedback and Confirmation. Let's dive into each of them.

Documenting the Current Environment

The crucial part of documenting the current environment is often asking the "What" questions and asking the "Why" questions. Let's look at empathy from the Design Thinking Process, which is the

"understanding why users do what they do."

In our example, if we had understood the users why 'why are there five holes,' this would have led to more clarifying questions.

Clarifying Questions

Using our example, some of the clarifying questions might have been: Was this the original blade? Was the original blade adapter used, or had it been replaced? Did the adapter have a round hole or star configuration? Was there a mulching kit option that may have been an option? Had the unit been serviced here previously (If so, the model # would have been on file). Lastly, did the customer have the model and serial number handy? The last key leads to the final step, Feedback and Confirmation.

Feedback and Confirmation

We can use feedback as a final step to confirm what the client is asking, the proposed solution, and confirmation on the solution. In our example, providing the customer feedback by showing the new blade, perhaps laid side by side, may have asked about the holes' configuration. The customer may have remembered taking the blade off and recalled only one bolt instead of three. Comparing the two blades side by side may have led the person behind the counter to ask about the odd number of holes and asked the customer to confirm.

Bottom-line, incorporating these three simple principles: Documenting the current environment, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback and confirmation will lead to satisfied customers through confirmed solutions to their issues.


Be sure to check out our other blog posts to learn more great tips. Subscribe to receive reminders and to stay up to date on technology industry news. We are on social media. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

A special thank you to our guest blogger, Michael Smith, MBA. A Versatile Data Enterprise Systems Executive.

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I love the simplicity of the example in walking through how to get at what the customer really needs!

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