Breaking Down the Language Barrier

If you’re in management, did you ever feel like the IT department just didn’t understand your needs and timelines? And if you’re in the IT department, did you ever feel like management was making unrealistic demands? And, for both management and IT, did you ever feel that you just couldn’t get your points across? That you were speaking two different languages? In many businesses, there is a real and inefficient language barrier between management and the IT team. The language of management is that of revenue streams, marketing strategies, and KPIs, whereas the language of the IT team is that of real-world implementation with its limitations and challenges. Let’s explore some advantages to breaking down this language barrier, before looking at ways of doing so.

Through my years of experience working as a virtual CIO, I have identified five key benefits of improving communication between management and the IT team.

Improved efficiency: By speaking the same language, meetings become more efficient. Both entities spend less time explaining their needs and constraints. They also spend less time clarifying what the other entity is communicating.

Enhanced decision making: Instead of making uninformed decisions, they can be made based on the needs of the markets, customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). Both sides will know not only the what and how, but also the WHY of completing projects.

Cost savings: By saving time when communicating effectively, costs can also be diminished, especially those allocated to a digital transformation.

Increased productivity: Time that used to be spent in trying to get your points across, can be spent in improving productivity. Also, projects will be finished quicker since the IT team knows what to prioritize and knows exactly what needs to be done.

Improved Customer Experience (CX): When management and the IT department are able to communicate effectively, the overall customer experience (CX) is streamlined.

These advantages, amongst others, make it a priority for senior management and the IT team to learn to communicate bilaterally. In traditional models, communication is unilateral: coming down from the C-suite to the IT team. Senior management tells the IT team its business requirements in terms of marketing, sales, finance, product design, and R&D. In this model, the IT team is treated as an IT provider: maintaining computers and software, providing technical support and making sure backups are done well.

In unilateral communication, a language barrier keeps the two departments from understanding each other effectively. For instance, the management team tells IT to create a new program without informing them of the problem they are trying to solve. IT may have come up with a better solution, but since they are not brought in at the strategy level, they create a program that does not meet the need. Management is frustrated because the company wasted both time and money. And on and on.

Breaking Down the Language Barrier

Instead, I am proposing bilateral communication in which both teams share strategies that would streamline processes. In theory, this approach provides the IT team with the freedom to find creative solutions to problems. In practice, an “interpreter” may be needed to go between the interests of management and the IT team. This interpreter, often in the role of Chief Information Officer, needs to be both tech-savvy and business-savvy. This person is able to speak the language of business strategies, as well as the language of technical constraints.

By learning to speak the same language, the language of strategies, both departments win out. Both have their interests understood. Both comprehend the time constraints and technical constraints. Both work together to propose the best solutions in this digital age.

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