Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk

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We had a couple of presentations in the department today. Team Yellow and Team Purple (Tentacle?) gave the initial presentations for their group projects.  To say that the teams had been working together for  a week or so and it was their first stand up together they did very well.

One thing that did stand out though was some of the phrases that were used and this brought home to me how you need to be careful how you talk in front of an audience, particularly if you want to convince them you know what you are doing.

For example take the phrase “User Friendly”. It is all very well to say “We are going to produce a user-friendly solution”. You want to convey that you think this aspect of a system is important. However, saying it like this is pretty much meaningless. The customer is not expecting you to produce something that is “user-hostile”, but the phrase could also be expressed as “We’re not going to make something that acts as if it hates you”. 

It is far better to say what you are actually going to do to solve the problem. “We are going to closely involve the end user in the design and implementation so that they find the system easy to use.” is a much better way to express your intentions.  Take a similar approach when you talk about security. Rather than saying you think something is important you must say what you are going to do about it.

The other thing that came out from the presentations was partly my fault. I’d said earlier that it is very important to make the customer aware of those aspects of the system that you are not going to implement. For example, you might be expecting the customer to back up the data rather than providing data backup as part of your solution. You need get this over, but I’m not sure you should have have a slide with the heading “Things we are not going to do”.  It is far better to say things like “The server infrastructure that you are using will be used to back up our data along with that from other systems”. This puts the responsibility in the right place without sounding like you are avoiding work.

If all this sounds a bit like the dread “marketing speak” then I’m very sorry about that, but I do feel that it is important that you make sure that things you say are backed up with a some kind of action plan and you should avoid sounding negative about your intentions.