Chris Weston (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Marc Dowd
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)

There are many areas of expertise for a technology leader to master.  One of these, just as important as the others, is communication – how you engage colleagues and clients to inform them about your strategies, your delivery and how they can best work with your team to achieve the organisation’s outcomes.

Some of the key communication areas are:

What the IT Team Can Do for You

This is almost “101 Basic” IT Management but it is amazing how often this is neglected.  Publishing a service desk number and email is one thing but is that the best way if your user wants to know how to create their own blog, or ask about a feature of the information management system?

You should consider what types of information could you publish to speed up information dissemination processes, rather than engaging with a back-and-forth through the various helpdesk teams?  Other examples where information about the process will help the user understand the role of IT are what services are available, and how long should you expect to wait for a resolution?  All of this type of information is about how IT teams explain what they do and what value they can provide, and through understanding this need they should shape their interfaces accordingly to engage in ways that their colleagues in the larger business want to engage.

Evangelism

This in one of the roles of the CIO, the CTO, the CDO and others within the IT team, such as Business Relationship Managers, who must have deep connections with their stakeholders.  They must be not just noting down the requirements but also describing the possibilities.  A business that does not have the knowledge of what emerging technology could do for them is doomed to play catch up at every turn. 

This requires a level of trust and credibility which takes time to build but the benefits are clear.  Work with your stakeholders to understand the key data in their business area. Some ways of thinking about it are: 

  • What is vital data that they will act upon immediately?
  • What is the information they will use for longer-term planning?
  • What is important to the interactions with their customers?
  • and how can data help them make relationships with their suppliers more effective?

Evangelism is about educating the IT senior team about the opportunities to add value as well as educating business stakeholders about the technologies that could improve or even transform their business.  This is about building and maintaining competitive advantage and raising barriers to entry for new entrants into your market. It is one of the key ways for IT to show value at the strategic level.

Getting More Out of Your Existing Tech

Shiny new tools are all well and good, but we could be so much more efficient in many cases if we only exploited the technology we have.  From simple tips to make daily tasks more efficient to “did you know we have the capability to integrate directly with supplier’s systems?”

Often this communication is a joint effort between users and suppliers of technology.  Often vendors can be leveraged to help with this, they want their software to be used effectively for lots of good reasons.  Problem managers are also important as they monitor the issues that cause frustration and look for long term solutions. Help them to communicate workarounds and smart hacks.

What Insights Are Available to the Wider Business

I often think of an IT teams as a car mechanic. If you use the same garage to service your car regularly, they can give you valuable insight into how you could get more life from your car, reduce your fuel and repair bills etc. – just through the insight into how often they replace brakes, wear on tyres, condition of the oil and so on. But – you need to have a good relationship with a mechanic before you will trust them and accept their tips and suggestions. IT is like a knowledgeable mechanic that knows your car well; they see the whole business, they are involved from start to finish of most processes and they have a long term view of the future of the technology.  IT can give colleagues great insights without telling them how to “drive the car”.  If this is not happening, maybe those relationships aren’t working well enough?

What Is Going Right, What is Going Wrong?

Self-awareness is an important thing to communicate but you need to do it from the other person’s point of view. IT teams often publish reams of data and statistics about their services that nobody outside IT can relate to or have the time to digest. 

Mostly, business people want to know that you’re onto a problem and have a resolution date if it’s something that’s affecting them.  The police have a trick for this, and it’s called tape. Car in a ditch?  Tape it up. That lets people know that someone has informed the authorities and they have it in hand.

Police Tape is not quite good enough for corporate IT, unfortunately!  Regular communication of things that go well are important too.  If you have only had 1 hour downtime this quarter, and that’s better than the industry average, why not report that?  Your business colleagues won’t congratulate you for it, but the effect is to gradually increase confidence amongst a user base – as long as you acknowledge the rough along with the smooth by being open to take responsibility for failures

What Have You Got to Look Forward to?

What projects are ongoing, what benefits will they bring, and when will they be live?  This is an area that is generally done well in IT teams, but it is worth mentioning here. Transparency and a shared celebration in delivery builds confidence and motivates everyone involved.

Those are some broad areas of communication that IT Teams should be managing. If you are doing them all, well done, if your team is also doing them and they you probably have a great relationship with your stakeholders – something we all aspire to.

 

This week in our Digital Leader’s Community conversation we will be talking about how digital teams communicate with the rest of the business, in particular the second element of communication – What can I tell my business about the future of technology.  If you’d like to join this discussion between Europe’s finest digital leaders, then please contact me cweston@idc.com for a free invitation.

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