IT Leaders Need to Learn the Language of Business

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Any IT person can tell you that talking shop with a non-IT person is frustrating. People working at all levels of information technology speak a unique language that people outside either do not understand or only have a little understanding. People working in IT usually keep this language barrier in mind when speaking with people outside the department.

Despite this knowledge at the lower ranks, IT executives still have an expectation that their functional peers will learn, understand, and speak the language of IT. That expectation is unrealistic and can open up the company to unnecessary risks and costs.

An Example of the Disconnect

A business executive brings a vendor in to give a presentation about a technology that could benefit this executive’s department. That executive does not bring anyone from IT into the discussion. The vendor talks up all the benefits of the technology. The executive is impressed and makes the deal.

That executive does not know the “rest of the story” because that executive does not speak the language of IT.

  • The vendor did not discuss how the new technology would integrate into the company’s infrastructure.
  • The vendor did not tell the executive that it would take a year or two to fully move the company from its current state to the point of using this technology fully and that the move would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • The vendor did not discuss the manpower required for maintaining and upgrading this technology in the future.

What Needs to Happen?

IT leaders need to learn the common language of business: finance.

IT executives need to speak in terms that other functional peers understand. They need to lead conversations about bringing in new technologies. They need to educate their peers on the financial consequences of bringing in technology without knowing the “rest of the story.” They need to partner with the finance department about managing IT investment throughout the company.

For well over half a century, IT leaders have been expecting their peers to learn the language of IT. That is a mistake that IT executives need rectify in today’s fast-paced technology driven business world. These executives need to learn to speak the language of business and to take control of the discussions surrounding technology within their companies.