It’s not a news flash to any successful business owner that communication is one of the fundamental roots to success. This is especially true when major changes in business process or culture are launched, as is happening these days as businesses are taking the first steps towards digital transformation — moving into the digital realm from the paper world.
For many business leaders, this digital transformation is a daunting task filled with cultural, technical, and process challenges. IT professionals struggle with explaining what’s being done and the complexities inherent in the effort.
At a recent Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Storage Strategies Conference, former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James spoke about the different languages these two groups use and offered pointers for success.
IT teams, she suggests, are laser-focused on compliance. A company is either patched or not patched. It’s a black and white world. On the other hand, business leaders can live in the gray. Risk can be mitigated and managed. Some of these business people have tech acumen, but they are more focused on business strategy, cash management, and sales.
Secretary James pointed out that healthy and cyber-safe organizations happen when there’s room at the table for both business and IT. She went on to offer Five Points for the IT team and Four Points for Business Leaders.
Business Relationship Strategies Between Business Leaders and IT Pros
Five Points for IT
- Strive to understand the business. IT pros are better served when they are educated about their client’s general business strategy and are perceived as business partners. Learn what you can, then talk in plain language, and be patient.
- Avoid “Department of No” perception. IT teams are perceived as the people slowing down the business by throwing up roadblocks because of risk. Instead, listen to the plan, offer your concerns, and then deliver solutions in plain language for leaders who are less tech savvy.
- Learn to use business language. When IT metrics and risks are anchored in the language that the business uses – growth, sales, reputation – it’s more probable that business people will listen.
- Get in front of them. We’re living in an email, text, virtual meeting world. Change that and get face to face with clients. Sitting across from someone helps the conversation flow and helps them understand that you’re there to help
- Speak up. Ask for a seat at the table so that you’ll better understand what the business needs and its future strategy. You’ll also be viewed as a resource rather than an expense or roadblock.
Four Points for Business Leaders
- Get used to IT. Secretary James says, “If you’re still thinking about IT and Cyber as functions that are solely designed to drive cost savings and something that you absolutely have to do for compliance, snap out of it. You’re not going to make it in the modern world.” Business leaders need to work with their Senior IT and Security teams if they’re going to survive this digital transformation.
- IT is a necessary expense. Many companies look at IT as the first thing to cut when budgets get tight. This is a dangerous practice, and James suggests that in this day and age IT budgets need to be increasing. This is a must-pay bill, she says.
- This isn’t magic. Business leaders who educate themselves about what it takes for IT pros to do their jobs, especially around digital transformation projects, are better equipped to understand the level of complexity involved. Talk to the IT team to understand what’s happening behind the scenes.
- Invest in your IT team. IT is one of the fastest evolving and technically challenging fields in business today. By investing in career and technical training, you’ll have a better-educated team that can more easily fend off any cyber threats.
Intivix is taking these suggestions to heart by working with our onsite field engineers to become better educated in our client’s business and general business practices. This internal cultural mindset will help us understand our clients and offer more efficient and effective solutions. In that way, both of us evolve and grow together.
Ultimately our goal is to help our clients become more productive and successful. We believe that after finding a greater understanding of our client’s day-to-day business practices, we can streamline internal processes and deliver better business results.