Communication in every sense of the word is a process in which the sender(in this cause the stakeholders) and the interpreter(the development team in this instance) both have the same conclusion or meaning from what was decoded from the spoken or written messages. Proper communication is vital in everyday activities, whether commuting, on the phone or in a conference room. Misunderstandings within the realm of computer science and software development can inadvertently be time-consuming and costly due to inadequate management of communication. This was further claimed in Curtis(1988) research in which he stated that “It is widely recognized that communication problems are a major factor in the delay and failure of software projects ”.
The Analysis phase is the first aspect of the software life-cycle and is vital that the requirements for setting the proper foundation of software, is solid and exactly meets the needs of the stakeholder(s). Understanding the stakeholder is key to ensuring that expectations are met when the final deliverable is presented. In a publication by TenStep(n.d) they outlined that “The Analysis Phase is where the project lifecycle begins. The Analysis Phase is where you break down the deliverables in the high-level Project Charter into more detailed business requirements.”.
With that said here are three aspects that may cause a breakdown in communication with regards to software development at the Analysis Phase:
- Communication Channel(Language Differences) and Business Practices
- Personality Types Factors(Perceptual Differences)
- Wrongful Representation(Lack of Involvement)
Each of which will be explained in details. Furthermore, Brookshear(2012) argues that “ practitioners in the software engineering field argue that poor communication and changing requirements are the major causes of cost overruns and late product delivery in the software engineering industry.”
Communication Channels(Language Differences) and Business Practices
“the channels are restricted to one way communication in the form of specification documents”(Al-Rawas and Easterbrook, 1996). This is commonly referred to as one-way communication. In most cases, stakeholders are in the habit of composing large documents of requirements most time with the use of jargons rather than having sessions of real-time communication. These documents, however, are not always fully understood and therefore raises a level of uncertainty. Without using the appropriate channel for communication and the use of better notations, the project could head down the wrong path.
This could be mitigated by the use of online utilities such as repositories(GitHub, Microsoft TFS or BitBucket) and the development of better less ambiguous notations with the natural language descriptions. This makes communication and interpretation much easier and precise, face-to-face communication is always a good option.
Personality Types Factors(Perceptual Differences)
Perception is how individuals interpret the world around them and how they contextualize the communicating medium. Each individual receives an interpretation which is significant to them. However, if the message is against their values it becomes unacceptable. Same may be taken differently by another individual. This, in turn, speaks’ to the sixteen different personality types. Carl G. Jung(1971) stated that “people can be characterized by their preference of general attitude: Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I), Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N) and Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)”. It was later that another researcher Myers(1980) added a fourth dichotomy “Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)”.
Understanding the different personality types of a group can significantly improve the reception of the information being decoded and sent which also facilities better communication.
Wrongful Representation(Lack of Involvement)
This is one of the overlooked aspects that in most case is where communication is broken. Having the right individuals to ask the right questions, is very important when it comes on to having enough information for both parties to be on a “level playing field”. Being able to structure and organize a series of questions during this phase, is vital to the cause. This was confirmed by Kabesh(2012) in an article in which he stated that “there are different methods that allow the interviewer to resolve conflicting information…”, these are
- Open-Ended Questions: allow the interviewee to decides what type of information to share.
- Closed Questions: control the answers of the interviewee.
- Hypothetical Open Questions: allow the interviewee to answer the question in the way he prefers.
In conclusion, proper communication and understanding will save both time and money, especially within the software development community. I have seen in my line of work where inefficiency with requirement specifications has caused an outsourcing software to lose/void their contract, Figure 1.0. This had a crippling effect on the business as well as the users of the system. Companies are becoming more sensitive about the negative impact poor documentation and communication can have on the company’s operation when the reliance on software for business operations are very high and are appointing individuals that specialize in these areas to manage and monitor the communication and progress.
Figure 1.0 Illustrates communication and the misinterpretation associated with same(Kabesh, 2012)
Al-Rawas, A. and Easterbrook, S., 1996. Communication problems in requirements engineering: a field study.
Brookshear, J. G., Smith, D. and Brylow, D. Computer Science: An Overview, 11th Edition. Reading, MA: Pearson (Addison-Wesley), 2012
Curtis, B., Krasner, H. and Iscoe, N., 1988. A field study of the software design process for large systems. Communications of the ACM, 31(11), pp.1268-1287.
Kabesh, M. (2012) Communication Break Down, Available at: http://mohamedkabesh.blogspot.com/2012/08/communication-break-down.html (Accessed: May 1, 2016).
Jung, C.G., 1971. Psychological types, volume 6 of The collected works of CG Jung. Princeton University Press, 18, pp.169-170.
TenStep (n.d) Analysis Phase, Available at: http://www.lifecyclestep.com/open/410.0ANALYSISPHASE.htm (Accessed: May 1, 2016).