The Day 4 assignment from my Blogging101 course has been skulking in the back of my mind since I read checked my email this morning… “Publish a post“, it said, “you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element in it“.
It seems the ‘new elements’ part could include using different styles of writing (haiku, anyone?), adding pictures (got plenty of those!), embedding tweets… OK – maybe not so much of an issue with that part.
As for the main part… You’d think that for a guy like me – part of whose job it is to help people define ‘business things’ better – that the task of simply stating or knowing who my ideal audience member would be ought to be a complete doddle…
Self-doubt, over-analysis, struggling about where to start, a midnight deadline to meet…
I decided to look at the chatroom/group blog open to all the people on this course to find some encouragement and re-assurance that I’m not the only one struggling to write something – but NO… it seems lots of people have already done their ‘homework’ already… But what’s this I see? There are some stragglers and strugglers just like me who’ve eventually written posts about how difficult today’s assignment is and have just gone ahead and started writing something. “Just get those fingers hitting keys – Write what ever comes to you”
So that’s what you’ve just read for the first part of this blog…
I suppose just doing that has calmed my brain somewhat – so I may be able to describe part of my ideal audience to you now…
In simplest terms, I suppose they would be people like me in some (or a lot of) ways – IT people who seen things go wrong because of lack of the clear and consistent communication when requirements for new systems or changes to systems are being discussed. These bumps in the road can ultimately lead to confusion, delays, rework and lack of user-satisfaction with what’s delivered. It’s sometimes down to the different terminology being used to describe things that are most important to the end-users of systems.
The language difficulties can suddenly appear in different – and sometimes quite subtle – ways.
One area where confusion can arise is from having the same simplified or shortened field names on screens or reports. For example (true story 1) – a field simply called “Issue Date” appeared on several different screens in a old system that was being replaced. On one particular screen the field name “Issue Date” would mean the date by which the team were planning to issue a quote to a customer. On a second screen, the field “Issue Date” would mean the date on which the team actually issued the quote to the customer. Two different bits of information with ‘the same name’ that the users automatically ‘translated’ because they were extremely familiar with the (old) system. Calling the separate fields Target Issue Date and Actual Issue Date made much more sense to the IT teams, but some business people just didn’t see the difference. Maybe a good question for IT folks (Business/Systems Analysts) to ask in these situations is “How would you describe this (thing) to someone who has never used the system?”
Another problem is often caused by acronyms and abbreviations which are often used as ‘ego’ words (“If you don’t know what A.B.C. means then you have less business knowledge than me and are therefore inferior/stupid/useless”).
True story 2 – In one of the first meetings during my first week in my current job someone used the term ‘A.P.I.’… I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant so I asked ‘the dumb question’ – “Excuse me – can you explain what that means?” . I was given ‘the look’ and was told, “Annual Premium Income”. However, someone else in the meeting then said, “No – it means Annualised Premium Income – which is something completely different!”… And so a ‘discussion’ ensued!
So there you have it – some people in my audience will care about using clear and consistent terminology when describing business system requirements.
Thanks for being patient with me during this difficult time!
To finish now, I’m now including a Dilbert cartoon – a favourite of mine about acronyms and abbreviations… Enjoy…