Balance Technical and Social Skills for Project Success
Technological advances occur every day, and software testers must adjust accordingly. However, maintaining a solid technical foundation addresses only half the challenge. Software testing is a socio-technical undertaking, which means that effective test strategies must incorporate a balance of technical capabilities relating to processes and tools and social capabilities used for communication and problem-solving.
Communication breakdowns are a primary cause of IT project failures. The key to achieving project success lies in social skills. Without robust social capabilities, IT projects will continue to be negatively affected by misaligned objectives and isolated decision-making.
Social skills help teams establish the definitions and expectations regarding project success. Individuals have to use their social skills to interact with project stakeholders. These social interactions facilitate knowledge-sharing, build relationships, promote trust, and, perhaps most importantly, clarify expectations.
Social interactions enable us to assess situations and course-correct in ways machines cannot. When project timelines shrink or are aggressive from the start, it’s the people, not the technologies, that formulate innovative ways of achieving desired results.
Software testers rely on their communication, adaptability, and problem-solving abilities to tailor testing deliverables to a level of risk stakeholders find acceptable while still meeting the desired timeline. Unfortunately, most software testers focus training funds and time on enhancing their technical capabilities rather than developing the social capabilities required to explain tactics, align expectations, and create IT project success.
By developing individual social capabilities, enhancing communication techniques, and building supportive relationships, software testers can effectively tailor testing tasks and help stakeholders understand how the technical aspects of testing align to project goals.
Developing social capabilities is not a one-and-done activity. As technology changes, stakeholders’ social skills also must adapt in order to maintain the balance of social and technical factors. Social skills also evolve based on team composition, desired goals, and collective abilities.
Maintaining a balance of growth in both technical and social skills enables software testers to boost team performance and their contribution to project success.
Marcia Buzzella is presenting the session Social Skills: The Softer Side of Software Testing at STARWEST 2017, October 1–6 in Anaheim, California.