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Here are some observations and tips for 'listening and comprehending' more effectively

This is an unusual blog for me. Usually I talk about how organizations can more effectively leverage data and analytics to power their business. However, as I conduct more Big Data Vision Workshops, I have come to realize that a big part of the success of these engagements is the ability to “listen and comprehend.”

Here are some observations and tips for “listening and comprehending” more effectively. I’ve classified this as “facilitation” because I seek to “facilitate” a dialogue with the client where I can learn enough about the client’s business to help them build the right Big Data business strategy.

So this is Schmarzo’s “Keys to Facilitation Success” – the behaviors and characteristics that your team needs to exhibit if you want to do the best job of servicing your clients and building the “right” big data solution:

Be Humble

  • Come to the engagement eager to learn about the client’s business and their challenges.
  • Seek to understand the client’s roles, responsibilities, key business decisions, and the questions that must be answered to support those key business decisions.
  • Remember that the facilitation process is 100% about the client; we are not here to impress the client with our smarts. Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room! Chances are… you aren’t.

Be Respectful

  • Do your homework on the client; show respect for the client by coming prepared.
  • Clients are very proud of what they do and what they’ve accomplished; nurture that pride to get them talking in detail about their responsibilities, pain points, business opportunities and analytic ideas.

Be Curious

  • Listen more and talk less. Period.
  • Encourage everyone to talk – don’t just listen to the loudest person.
  • God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason; practice “active listening” (active listening involves paraphrasing to confirm understanding).
  • Don’t be shy about asking clarifying questions; if you do not understand what the client has said (e.g., acronyms) ask to clarify (“Can you please explain?”).
  • Focus on what the client is trying to accomplish, not on what they are doing now. For example, when a client says that they are downloading data into a spreadsheet that is usually a goldmine of analytic opportunities! Don’t focus on what they are doing (i.e., downloading data into a spreadsheet). Instead focus on what they are trying to accomplish (i.e., the analysis they are performing in the spreadsheet).

Be Provocative

  • Be a 5 year old (Why? Why? Why?), but balance the “why” questions with “what” and “how” questions; “why” questions can come across as judgmental while “how” and “what” questions are less threatening while being inquisitive.
    • “What are you trying to accomplish?” versus “Why did you do that?”
  • Sprinkle positive acknowledgments throughout the interview: “That’s a good point.” “Interesting…”
  • Create a “line of questioning” around a particularly relevant topic: “Tell me more.” à “What were the results?” à “How would you do that differently…”

Be Sincere

  • Sincerity shows in your eyes, your posture and your “line of questioning”; be genuinely interested in what the client is trying to accomplish.
  • Be empathic to the nature and challenges of their jobs and responsibilities.
  • Show them you’re listening (look at them, ask questions on what was just said, etc.).

Be Thorough

  • Listen with an ear towards identifying business opportunities and use cases; write them down as you hear them; at the end of the interview repeat them back to the client to verify you heard correctly
  • Take detailed notes; listen especially for things you can write down verbatim as quotes are powerful!

Have Fun!!

  • Smile! You’ve been offered a great opportunity to learn more about your client’s business opportunities and challenges.

The post Keys to Facilitation Success appeared first on InFocus.

More Stories By William Schmarzo

Bill Schmarzo, author of “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business” and “Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science”, is responsible for setting strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings for Hitachi Vantara as CTO, IoT and Analytics.

Previously, as a CTO within Dell EMC’s 2,000+ person consulting organization, he works with organizations to identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He’s written white papers, is an avid blogger and is a frequent speaker on the use of Big Data and data science to power an organization’s key business initiatives. He is a University of San Francisco School of Management (SOM) Executive Fellow where he teaches the “Big Data MBA” course. Bill also just completed a research paper on “Determining The Economic Value of Data”. Onalytica recently ranked Bill as #4 Big Data Influencer worldwide.

Bill has over three decades of experience in data warehousing, BI and analytics. Bill authored the Vision Workshop methodology that links an organization’s strategic business initiatives with their supporting data and analytic requirements. Bill serves on the City of San Jose’s Technology Innovation Board, and on the faculties of The Data Warehouse Institute and Strata.

Previously, Bill was vice president of Analytics at Yahoo where he was responsible for the development of Yahoo’s Advertiser and Website analytics products, including the delivery of “actionable insights” through a holistic user experience. Before that, Bill oversaw the Analytic Applications business unit at Business Objects, including the development, marketing and sales of their industry-defining analytic applications.

Bill holds a Masters Business Administration from University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, Computer Science and Business Administration from Coe College.

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