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IT pros and business executives: Are you speaking different languages?

April 15, 2014

Advancements in information technology are transforming the corporate landscape. In turn, this development has reshaped the role IT support teams play within companies, putting tech pros and the services they implement at the front and center of many core business initiatives. As technology becomes more critical to enterprise operations, business leaders are increasingly turning to their IT staff for advice in adopting new technologies that could completely alter company processes and strategies. Therefore, the age-old problem of interdepartmental communication is all the more acute.

IT and business: Potential for a great marriage
Thomas W. Malone's book, "The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management  Style, and Your Life," which was excerpted in Technology Review, described the deep impact technology can have on a business's trajectory. The author noted that technological opportunities require shifts in mindsets. The new model, which is possible with advanced IT network systems, offers phenomenal "freedom and flexibility," he wrote: Even on a large, global scale, companies can make use of "flexibility, creativity, motivation and innovation." These shifts in business strategy require the right solution to make them possible—which is why IT pros who can speak to business concerns are in particularly high demand.

As far as communication challenges, we're not just talking about setting up a phone system or a messaging service. Frequently, business leaders and IT professionals have trouble understanding one another because they come from different industry backgrounds and think in drastically different ways. This distinction can prove to be an incredibly valuable asset, but all too often manifests itself in miscommunication or insufficient explanations. As CIO Insight described it, it's almost like IT pros and business leaders are speaking a different language. And guess what: The onus usually falls on IT leaders to serve as "translators."

Getting on the same page
What happens when IT and corporate decision-makers don't quite see eye to eye? At first, a little foggy communication might not seem like the biggest deal, but it can be the root cause of significant problems. CIO Insight mentioned that failure to get on the same page often results in IT projects that fail to live up to expectations. IT resources might be designed around a tech professional's understanding of the situation, when the business leader had entirely different applications in mind. This can also impact whether teams meet their deadlines and create the most tailored, efficient processes and systems possible to address company requirements.

Because they often have both business and technology expertise, CIOs are natural leaders to help bridge the departmental gap, translating between "IT speak" and "business talk," the source suggested. These executives need to understand their organizations' needs, goals and strategies as well as have a sense of what technology is available and which options would work best for their companies.

When speaking with business leaders, CIOs should express their initiatives in language that directly addresses business gains, the source added. This will help non-IT colleagues understand the reasons behind certain recommendations or decisions as well as make sure the technical aspects of company strategies are in line with where leaders plan to take the business.

Although CIOs play an important role in this partnership, particularly as executives and leaders of their departments, its also helpful to have IT pros with business acumen. IT help teams, for example, who can explain technology in clear, layman's terms to non-technical colleagues will be a great boon to their organizations, as will IT experts who can perceive specific business needs and develop solutions that will address them directly and effectively.

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