Monday, July 20, 2015

Three Aspects of IT Communication

IT leaders need to build the capability, not only communicate, but connect, inspire and motivate.

Traditional IT organizations are often running in a functional silo to speak the technical jargon business couldn’t understand; now with IT consumerization and other digital technology trends, IT is at crossroad to either move up the maturity ladder, to become a value generator and business partner, or continue to be considered as support function or cost center. As an IT leader, how can CIOs and IT managers convey the vision and deliver the clear messages of IT being a value enhancer and profit enabler?

Organizations see the value and need for effective, coordinated communications within and from IT: IT should always work to justify the investment the business makes in technology. With the incorporation of social media, mobile messaging and social collaboration tools into the corporation, the means for providing this justification, selling IT mission, and creating an integrated workforce has never been more cost-effective. The return on the investment IT realizes in a service and communication strategy is one that pays substantial short and long-term benefits. At the strategic level, this is the role of the CIO, to both craft a solid communication strategy and practice it effectively; and a CIO who isn't speaking the language of the business they are in is really not doing their job.

The successful communication targets at bridging the gap between IT and the business: IT historically has had poor communication accountability within IT or between business and IT.  IT - Business communication sometimes seems like an oxymoron. As we move from using technology as a vehicle to maximize efficiency and minimize costs to using technology as an enabler and catalyzer of totally new business models, the IT role becomes much more focused on the marketing of technology. Technical jargon is like speaking a different language to the business. The IT leaders usually play the role as a translator between the business and IT;  they must straddle concepts and translate language between the business and technical staff, to avoid “get lost in translation.” Often they have to stress to both sides to avoid using language and terms of the other. When describing business requirements use business language, not "techno-ese" and vice versa.

Marketing IT at all levels of the organization really does help to demonstrate value and engage those who can help to achieve the goals: The IT folks need to stop separating IT and the business. Make business suggestions and proposals that just happen to apply IT. First and foremost, the ideas and suggestions need to benefit the business. And it’s also great to see more IT managers breaking out of the IT vacuum! So a widely diverse communications effort needs to be part of the plan. Start with the CIO presenting a non--technical and practical delivery to the senior executive team or better yet, the Board of Directors. Take media or tools which are easy for anyone to understand the message. That's the key in no matter what form the communications take.

IT leaders need to build the leadership capability, not only communicate but connect, inspire and motivate: Communication is important, however, what is even more important is the ability to connect. The ability to inspire and motivate; the ability to help people achieve their goals and objectives; the ability to help people overcome their challenges and more importantly; the ability to help people navigate through difficult change. These are the traits of a leader. Someone who can just speak well may not deliver as someone who can connect. Because connection goes beyond descriptive communication, it needs vision, empathy, and creative communication to touch the heart and connect the mind. Leaders need to have both thinking and communication skills to be able to represent themselves, to be able to persuade and to have respect.

CIOs must be able to relay complex technical ideas in a nontechnical manner to business leaders and have skills to communicate change. They may also need to master all styles of conversations targeting a different audience to develop situational wisdom and influential competency, to rebuild IT reputation as a value creator and innovation hub.


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