Tips for Visualizing the Value of Software

Mike HarrisI’m an avid reader of industry publications – probably like many of you. So, when I come across an article that I think others may be interested in, I’m inclined to share! The latest article to pique my interest is, “Why They Just Don’t Get It,” from the May/June 2016 edition of IEEE Software.

The article itself is all about how to communicate about software architecture with business stakeholders. I’ve talked about it before (and we’re all aware by now), but there is a serious gap between the business and IT – to the detriment of the entire organization. Thus, it’s important for IT to find ways to effectively communicate with the business to facilitate thoughtful decision-making. This is true about software architecture and it’s true about software value.

The part of the article I want to focus in on is the section, “A Crash Course in Visual Communication.” In essence, the section discusses how it can be hard to put something complicated into words (like software architecture), so sometimes visuals enable improved communication. It reinforces what I have been communicating over the past year in many of my other blog posts and speaking engagements – the need for visualizing value. The section lists six lessons for creating architecture-related visuals, but they apply to value visuals as well.

1)      Our brains focus on things that are different, even in minor ways. When you’re making visuals, call-out the things you want the audience to pay attention to by making them different (changing the color is an easy way to achieve this).

2)      We also unconsciously organize visual elements into bigger groups. Help the viewer by making these groups more obvious (place like items close together or make them the same color, etc.)

3)      The colors you choose send messages, so choose wisely. For instance, many people associate red with negative emotions (anger, stop, etc.). Have these associations in mind when you select colors for your visuals.

4)      Don’t overcrowd your visual. Use icons and logos to make the image clean and easy to interpret.

5)      Read and learn about graphic design and apply basic principles whenever you can. You may not have the time for this, but I would suggest trying to look at the visuals you create with a more critical eye – or asking for someone else to review them.

6)      This is my favorite tip – try sketching! Not every visual that you share has to be a professional-looking graphic. If you’re in a meeting and having trouble communicating your thoughts, try sketching your thoughts – it may spur the right kind of conversation.

Visuals are a powerful communication tool, and when words aren’t serving us well, it’s wise to remember that we don’t always need them! When it comes to interacting with those outside of IT, think about how you can communicate in ways that will make sense to the other person – it will benefit both parties equally. My May 18, 2016 blog post, “Visualizing the Value Through Information Radiators and Business Dashboards” discusses two different visualization tools that help teams more easily manage their software development projects and demonstrate the value. Check those out – they could be useful!

How do you use imagery in your professional life for improved communication – or, how do you think your business could benefit from such a strategy?

Read the article: “Why They Just Don’t Get It,” IEEE Software.



Mike Harris

Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
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