There are many misconceptions surrounding IT, one of the main ones being that it's actually some kind of parallel universe. Other departments tend to think of the ‘IT guys’ as all being geeks who hide themselves away and rarely communicate with the outside world unless it is via email or online chat.
The truth couldn't be more different however and many IT pros have got so fed of their insight and communication falling on deaf ears that they would have us believe they have all but given up and accepting their stereotyping. The main problem is getting the message across to others the importance of the IT infrastructure, something most IT pros admit they are failing at but try to look to other departments to help out, marketing for example.
We were dismayed to read a recent survey commissioned by CIO which stated 31% of the IT pros who responded said that they spent between 4 and 8 hours a month solely on communication. A further 30% spent somewhere between 9 and 24 of their working hours attempting to communicate about IT stuff whilst 11% spent at least 25 hours talking shop.
A further 45% claimed to spend more time now talking to colleagues about IT than they were a couple of years ago while 41% said the time the spent talking shop hadn't changed at all.
Perhaps more disheartening were the outcomes of the communication, IT pros certainly do not feel they have anything to show for their communications. The respondents themselves only rated themselves as being able to perform damage control a mere 15% of the time it was needed, which is slightly concerning if businesses are not listening to the IT team at critical times.
Based on the survey, it seems the areas that IT departments most struggled in a communication sense are as follows, with the figure at the end being how many rated themselves as being highly effective at it;
- Explaining a business strategy or vision 13%
- Building up credibility and trust 12%
- Demonstrating how IT understands the needs of the business 11%
- Able to attract new talent 8%
- Proving the business value of IT 7%
- Educating others on capabilities and technologies 6%
It seems overall that IT departments are dissatisfied with internal communications within their organisation, with a total of 44% of those surveyed said that they felt in some way concerned with how internal IT communication was handled within their company, in fact some didn’t feel it was their role to communicate with the company but the role of the marketing department to disseminate information. Something we tend to agree with for communicating some issues, although if IT are ever going to change the perception of themselves it will only happen through communication.
You may look to your marketing department to suggest or work with you to find new ways to communicate with the business and highlight the importance of IT and dispel the myth that the IT team are more than the “have you tried restarting” brigade. You also have to bear in mind that every business is different, thus what may work well for one will probably fall flat for others but your marketing team should be able to guide you.
It’s time to think outside the box and instead of discussing how you can make your communication more effective in terms of the time you spend on it look at it from the perspective of those on the receiving end. Instead of depending on the message travelling up the ranks and reaching the top level intact pushing to meet with those in first place seems a pretty solid tactic. Those in the higher ranks who actually deploy the business' overall strategy are the ones who need to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak and the one’s with the power to ensure the message is passed on and communicated in the most effective way, this could be through staff workshops, training, internal newsletters and announcements.
Like any marketing or communication message, it’s important to pitch to your target audience and not leave anyone out. For example, there will certainly be times when lines of communication should also be aimed at middle management as well as senior management, after all these are the people who make sure the agendas set by those above are carried out correctly. Your end users are a group which should also be kept in the loop at every opportunity.
And remember, try to cut down on the tech jargon somewhat and you will find your audience is a lot more receptive and appreciative as they will actually be able to understand what you are saying and the benefits of what you’re suggesting, it’s about how you can make their life easier or make them look good. You might find it annoying to dumb down what you are trying to say but better to get the message across in a way people understand than have everyone wondering what the heck you are talking about.