by Eric Stavola
At the very core of the digital transformation is that IT is now being looked at as a strategic asset and not a cost center. IT services are now being discussed as a critical component of business processes that build revenue and create competitive advantages.
In working with both business and technology leaders I am noticing a major communication gap in organizations. In a recent study, 3,000 C-level executives they stated that when it comes to a technology discussion they are looking for reliable/accurate content or information; straightforward, unbiased coverage; and easy-to-understand content.
Yet in that same study, IT professionals stated that their biggest issues were with/in communication with key executives. They stated that:
- They find it very challenging to collect enough high-quality trusted information to educate leadership.
- They lack the time and energy to “simplify the tech speak” for executives
- They struggle to get adequate funding for budget and key projects
Thus, in an effort to get to more clear, concise communication, I recommend the following three steps to help bridge the communication gap and turn IT discussions into more business conversations.
Step 1 – Align Technology and Business Initiatives
When working with clients or potential clients, I recommend a simple strategy session with both business and technology leaders. We look at the company a little bit differently by breaking it up into in four key areas, and ask them to tell me about key goals, initiatives, struggles and challenges they/you are having in each of these areas:
Strategy: Most companies have key goals and initiatives set by the top management on behalf of owners, based on consideration of resources and an assessment of the internal and external environments in which the organization competes.
Structure: the way the organization is structured and who reports to whom. In effort to uncover critical needs or gaps, it is important to understand how a company communicates
Skills: Scope and capability of current staff and key processes
Systems: When focusing in this area it is key to understand that all companies have some sort of IT infrastructure and database that their company typically resolves around. Understanding more about these systems and strategic initiatives will lead to greater impact on deliverables
Step 2 – Identify Your Maturity Level
Most executives are familiar with business maturity levels; however, there’s also an IT maturity level that directly aligns with the maturity level of the business. Identifying where you are as an organization and where you want to go helps better align goals and leads to better speed to execution:
Maturity Levels, Traits and Goals:
Survival: IT looked at as a necessary evil; there is predictability or stability from day to day.
Goal: Stability, security, predictability
Learning/Optimize: IT is valued for delivering stability and predictability and is now being asked to drive business initiatives that require agile, scalable and improved workflow or delivery of services
Goal: Improve process and optimize performance; mitigate risk; compliance
Best Practice: Technology and leadership improve organization business processes to drive and deliver desired business outcomes
Goal: Leveraging technology to directly affect employee and customer experience
Step 3 – Have Data-Driven Conversations
I see so many companies who are simply paralyzed in making decisions. When I get brought in to help consult, I find that almost always, if not always, the reason for no action is due to lack of documentation. Leaders are drowning in information, but lack actionable intelligence to make decisions. Thus, when working with your executive team or key leadership, make sure to provide the following information to have a data-driven conversation:
Visibility for decisions makers to be able to have to critical data to make educated decisions on business-focused services
Insight into IT and skill gaps needed to be able to make effective decisions as it relates to technology and business processes.
Provide multiple plans to resolve issues and have a documented IT roadmap for consistency
With these steps, you can bridge the communication gap and turn IT discussions into more business conversations.
Eric Stavola is Director of Pre-Sales Engineering at mindSHIFT Technologies. He earned an M.A. in Education from Ball State University and an M.S., Computer Information Systems, from the University of Phoenix. With industry certifications including MCSE, MCSA, NET+ and CDIA+, Eric is a hands-on strategist who brings real-life experience to the table. Prior to joining mindSHIFT, Eric managed IT for major educational institutions and was COO/CIO at a multimillion dollar regional dealership.