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Kimball University: Better Business Skills for BI and Data Warehouse Professionals

To deliver better intelligence, BI and data warehousing teams need business acumen, interpersonal skills and communication competencies. Here are helpful tips and 12 invaluable resources for career development and success.
Building Written Communication Skills

Written communications are another pillar of the communications skill set. Much of how we interact with others is through the written word – e-mails, proposals, requirements documents, and documentation actually define the DW/BI system to 95 percent of your business user community. Poor or sloppy writing can distract the reader and undermine the value and credibility of the message. Try one or more of these Bibles on good writing:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (Allyn and Bacon, 2000). There are also several online versions.

Keys to Great Writing by Stephen Wilbers (Writers Digest Books, 2007)

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser (Collins, 2006)

In addition to these books, there are hundreds of Web sites that offer writing tips and style guides. Take a look at Purdue University's Online Writing Lab or Capital Community College's Guide to Grammar and Writing.

Most of what you find on the Internet is a starting point at best. It's difficult to provide the depth of content available in a book or classroom on the Web, but it's an easy place to start.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The Internet and books are a good starting point, but they are no substitute for practice. These are skills like any other; the more you work on them, the more you will improve. Every time you communicate with another person, you have an opportunity to practice your interpersonal skills. Every e-mail, document, or even comments in your code present a chance to work on better writing. Opportunities to practice public speaking are all around you, but they need to be cultivated a bit. Ask for time in your team's weekly meeting to present an educational segment on an interesting problem you've been dealing with and how you solved it. Offer to teach one of the DW/BI system ad hoc tool classes. In fact, if you take it seriously — by preparing well, creating clear graphics, and practicing — even a design review is an opportunity to practice your presentation skills.

Ask your manager or HR department for additional recommendations on communications resources. While you're at it, have them include the whole area of communications in your performance appraisal. That way, you get credit for doing what you need to do to be successful in your project. You also get a little external motivation.

If you are excited by the prospect of improving your business acumen, interpersonal skills, speaking talent and writing abilities, then you are half way there! Your enthusiasm and motivation will make it a rewarding endeavor.