Talking Tech: Translating Technology for Understanding
Has this ever happened to you? As a business leader, you ask what seems like a simple question, and you get a long-winded answer that uses a lot of technical terms. In the end, you’re either not sure you fully understood what’s been said, or you did understand (but you’re dead wrong).
Or maybe you’re the CIO or another IT professional on the receiving end of the question. All too often, you start explaining and quickly see that deer-in-the-headlights look, indicating a lack of understanding.
It happens all the time. It’s like you’re discussing the same subject but speaking different languages. For example, if I told you to stop using TLAs, you might not know that stands for three-letter acronyms. See how that works? And that’s not even technical.
IT is rampant with technical terms, acronyms, buzzwords, and jargon. For those working with technology, these terms are common and work as a shorthand for communication, but it can be frustrating for business leaders that need to know what’s happening. “Tech talk” can also lead to misunderstandings and conflict.
Effective tech leaders must translate this shorthand in a way that business leaders can understand to make better decisions. This isn’t about talking down to someone but rather about providing clarity so everyone is on the same page when it comes to the technical infrastructure on which the company runs and relies.
Translating Technology for Business Leaders
The burden falls on IT leaders to translate tech in a way non-technical people can understand. As the expert in the group, it’s natural for others to turn to you for answers. However, if you can’t clarify things in a way others know what you’re telling them, it’s a recipe for problems.
In communication, it’s not what you say that is important, but rather what people hear and understand that makes the difference. For business leaders, asking for clarification is essential to getting the information necessary to make informed decisions.
Speaking Their Language
Technology often focuses on a particular facet that impacts an organization. Executives, however, are generally thinking more holistically and responsible for how the entire organization operates.
So, while the tech team may be focused on the importance of cloud migration to improve efficiency and accessibility, executives might be more focused on the bottom line: How will moving data from on-prem to the cloud save us more money or generate more revenue? Without the answers to these questions, it can be difficult to sell someone on the value of such an initiative.
Any time business leaders must make big decisions, they must balance the needs of the organization against business objectives. To fund the project you proposed, for example, they may have to pull resources from somewhere else. So, the more you craft your discussion to align with business goals, the more successful you will be.
Focusing Technology on Benefits
In sales, it’s well known that you should focus your message on benefits, not features. A feature is something your product can do, while a benefit is about what the buyer or user “gets out of it.” For example, a particular software package might be extensible — that’s a feature. The benefit, however, is that the user can customize it to work exactly how they want, so it fits into their existing workflow without completely redesigning how they work.
As in sales, you need to talk tech by defining benefits and value. If you want to launch a new digital initiative, you better be able to explain how it will save the company time or money, provide a competitive benefit, or futureproof the business. For business leaders, “what it will do and why it’s needed” is much more important than “how it works and how you will do it.”
Personalizing Your Message
Keep in mind that various stakeholders have different perspectives and responsibilities. Think about the various C-suite execs and managers and how they might view a data security breach:
• Those in charge of marketing will want to know how it might impact the company’s reputation.
• The Chief Financial Officer is more concerned about the cost of mitigating and repairing the damage from the breach.
• Legal counsel might worry about compliance problems and potential regulatory burdens.
• The CEO will likely focus on how fast something can be contained and whether the organization has the proper plan in place to do so.
• Each business-line manager will want to know how it affects their departments and what immediate changes they may need to make.
While those in each of these roles want to know details of what happened, they are all approaching the situation from different viewpoints. Therefore, the most effective IT leaders must be able to present the information needed and tailor it to each audience.
By eliminating the technical jargon and reducing complexity, you can help build trust in yourself and your team members. Many business decisions are made based on ROI or risk mitigation. Will your proposal help the company make more money or reduce the risk of losing money? Be prepared to answer those questions when talking tech.
Of course, building trust takes time, and it also requires that your selected technology solutions provide the benefits you promised they will. So, be careful not to overpromise.
Whenever possible, have the facts to back up anything you’re discussing. For example, if you suggest an additional investment in cybersecurity, you may want to quantify the recent increase in emerging threats and their impacts on other companies. Concrete examples and case studies of how technology prevented problems or increased sales for other companies can be a big help.
Defining Terms Carefully
Another problem that IT leaders encounter, even among themselves, is that words and phrases sometimes have different meanings. For example, cloud migration to one business may mean replicating their on-premises data storage in the cloud. For others, it might mean rearchitecting applications for cloud-native solutions.
When discussing such terms, you must be clear about what you mean. Here are a few examples.
Digital transformation is an all-encompassing process of redefining your business processes and infrastructure to leverage digital technology. Many people hear the term and think more about digitization, which is transferring physical documents into digital records.
Cloud migration involves transferring data, applications, and IT resources to a cloud-based infrastructure, typically hosted by third-party providers.
Without definition, this could mean moving an on-premise database to a cloud service provider, moving your data from one supplier to another, or shifting your entire infrastructure to the cloud.
Cybersecurity is all about protecting networks, systems, and data from unauthorized access. Still, there are so many subsets of cybersecurity and specific tools and tactics that it can get complex quickly.
Cybersecurity also goes beyond detection and identification. It also includes designing and planning a secure infrastructure to monitoring and maintaining it, as well as best practices for response and recovery.
Managed Service Provider
Managed service providers (MSPs) can fulfill many functions for companies, including managing IT, security, and cloud resources. Just mentioning the need for an MSP can leave business leaders wondering why they are paying for an IT staff and still having to outsource.
The reality is that MSPs often handle various aspects of a company’s IT, such as providing service desk or network monitoring and documentation. Managed security services might involve end-user security training, vulnerability management, firewalls and antivirus, and intrusion protection services. Managed cloud services include cloud platforms, business software, collaboration tools, license management, and more.
Don’t Talk Tech. Talk Business.
Regardless of what type of technology or services you are discussing with business leaders, defining the terms clearly and ensuring a clear understanding of the business purpose is essential. You need to explain the benefits, the impact of failing to implement a project, and the ROI.
This is an area where Sagiss can help. With decades of experience working with IT leaders, business executives, and leading enterprises, our team knows how to talk to key stakeholders and provide clear definitions so everyone is on the same page. We like to think of ourselves as businesspeople who do IT, not IT people that are figuring out business.
If you need managed IT, security, or cloud services in North Texas, contact Sagiss today to learn more.