Even when people speak the same language, thoughts are often lost in translation as they become words uttered from our mouths or emails typed on computer screens. Every day we all experience communication gaps in our personal lives, whether it be in disagreements with our spouses, instructions for our kids to clean their rooms, or in getting friends to agree with our political points of view. If effective communication is this challenging between people who speak the same language, it’s easy to understand the communication gaps that arise between people who speak different languages or different dialects of the same language.
In the corporate world, bridging the communication gap between the language of business and that of information technology (IT) can be particularly challenging. Especially as business stakeholders and technologists engage in what can seem like endless battles translating the strategic vision of the business into timely, tactical actions to be carried out by IT. While some challenges are unavoidable when transforming complex business requirements into sophisticated, technology solutions, effective communication between business stakeholders and technologists doesn’t need to be one of them. With a little patience and practice, technologists can overcome the communication gap between themselves and the business stakeholders.
The first step to better communication is for technologists to take a more active interest in the short and long term goals and objectives of their companies. By understanding what their companies do, where their companies are headed, and the challenges their companies may face along the way, technologists put more skin in the game. They become personally invested in achieving positive outcomes by taking a broader view of how their work can directly impact the performance of their companies. This change in focus usually translates into more effective communication as both business stakeholders and technologists engage in meaningful, less adversarial discussions on how technology can help the business achieve its goals. This often leads to a shift in IT organizational attitudes in which the goal becomes to either directly or indirectly add financial value to the company’s bottom line through increased revenue, improved productivity, strengthened customer loyalty, or by reducing costs and mitigating risks.
But even with this positive shift in organizational attitudes, many technologists still struggle with translating techno-babble into business value. Frequently, technologists dive too deeply into the technical weeds when asking for approval to fund initiatives that will broadly but positively impact the business. Because business stakeholders don’t speak “technical” it’s difficult for them to understand how these broader initiatives, driven by IT and not the business, will add the same kind of value as high profile capital projects driven by the business. So technologists need to frame their arguments for these broader initiatives differently by describing at a high level how they will positively impact all projects, and how over time they will add meaningful and measurable value to the business. Listed below are several recent examples of successful translations that wrap the need for some of these broader initiatives in the cloak of business value with which business stakeholders can easily relate.
- On Automating Deployments: Automating deployments will reduce deployment times and eliminate costly mistakes that have been associated with manual deployments in the past. Automating deployments will add value to our business by reducing application downtime, lowering deployment support costs, and improving employee productivity as more time can be spent on proactive initiatives and enhancements important to our business.
- On Improving Code Review Efficiency: Improving code review efficiency mitigates the risk of introducing flawed or poorly performing code into production, and decreases the time required to conduct a thorough and complete code review. Improving code review efficiency will benefit our business by eliminating functional processing errors early in development which can help reduce costly application slowdowns and downtime in production during peak periods of activity.
- On Performing a Gap Analysis: Performing a formal gap analysis reveals the differences between the current state of business systems and processes and the desired or required state of business systems and processes. Identifying “gaps” between the current state and the desired or required state of a system or process empowers our business to create remediation plans to eliminate any “gaps” that are found. Remediating deficiencies identified during a gap analysis will add value to our business because eliminating serious “gaps” in supportability, such as the lack of a disaster recovery plan for every system, directly impacts the viability of our business.
- On Performance Tuning and Optimization: Proactive performance tuning and optimization reveals and eliminates inefficiencies in code, targets and reduces performance pain points in critical areas, improves overall system performance, and teaches a repeatable methodology to IT support employees that can be applied to all future tuning and optimization efforts. Performance tuning and optimization benefits our business by increasing customer satisfaction through less downtime, improved application performance, and quicker turnaround times.
In conclusion, communication between business stakeholders and technologists becomes more effective when technologists take the time to learn more about the businesses they support. This knowledge empowers technologists to engage in more targeted discussions with business stakeholders by putting the focus on delivering measurable business value with all IT projects and initiatives. This in turn helps to move the strategic vision of the business toward reality in a more timely manner.