Translating IT and Business Speak

Some years ago I took a break from the workforce to travel about in Europe, a sort of sabbatical. Once on the continent it became clear the level of diversity amongst cultures and languages were beyond even my expectations. In my mind I understood the importance of being able to speak the local language as much as possible even if I was only going to be there for a short time. My rationale was that if I could ask for the essentials including lodgings, food and a pint, I would be able to get by on charm for everything else.

It was on a train from Paris to Lyon that I came across Giles, a retired French teacher who spoke excellent English. Having always admired the ability to converse in multiple languages I sat with him. He explained to me it was in my best interest to continue to exercise my French skills (even though I thought they were mediocre at best) while I was in France. His explanation was simple “You may not be fluent and may stumble a bit, but you will find that your interactions with people in your time here will be more enjoyable.”

This is also true of the IT and business interactions. While we both ultimately have the same goals quite often we may be speaking different languages – Technical and Business. An important part of this dialog is to understand the gap in communication between the two. This only really can happen when we get together and not only discuss but really listen to and understand what the other is saying.

You may have the Business Relationship Manager who facilitates this process quite nicely. The BRM may perform many activities but are able to interact as a liaison between the business and IT with regards to achieving outcomes. Until your organization has someone in this capacity you may have to take the initiative and start this on your own.

Getting Started

You might ask “Where do I start?” In the past I had decided to meet and interact with 1 person from my business every other week. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a SMART goal. Keep in mind that while this seems like a small goal over the course of the year I will have leveraged the experiences and skills of 26 people of varying backgrounds. Keeping this simple will also allow me to manage all the other moving parts without overextending any one activity or another.

Do Not Make Assumptions

Much like in the languages we speak across the globe, a minor difference in pronunciation can make the difference between a bath and a bus. Having regular collaboration time to come up with ways to address the business outcomes is important, but ensures that you leave little room for interpretation. One on one style meetings with the senior leaders may have been the mode before however a fundamental understanding of day to day activities across the broader spectrum may be the route to go. Involving several stakeholders and make them available at these sessions to ask questions should clarify any ambiguities which may exist from both a business and IT perspective

Finish What You Start

Everything starts with the best intentions in mind. Keep connecting with your business to ensure that we are still on target. If you veer off the path, as you inevitably may, make the necessary course corrections. There are no failures with these kinds of deviations as something can always be learned from them. Ensure you share these findings within your community. It can be very easy to fall back into the old routines so keep at it.

As you progress in this new collaborative spirit you still may not intimately know all the business needs but you will be in a better position to ask the right questions to help you both achieve the business outcomes.

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