17th Feb 2017CIO
By Joanna Drake, Global SVP of Technology Services at Wood Mackenzie
I've heard it lots of times, in every business I've been part of: 'We didn't engage with the Tech Guys because we didn't think they needed to know yet' or 'we didn't think we needed to speak to Tech until the end of the project. 'What our colleagues really mean is that they don't like working with us - the 'Tech Guys' – so they put it off until the last minute and projects aren't successfully delivered.
If I'm honest, I don't blame them. People who work in Technology have long been dubbed the 'geeks', appearing unapproachable and often talking in a language that nobody else understands. If a colleague asks for our input and receives a jargon-filled response, they walk away thinking, 'this is just typical of Tech Guy. I've got no idea what he's saying.'
Communication skills have become as vital as our technical ones. Gone are the days when the Tech Guys were buried away in the basement in isolation from the rest of business. Today, Tech is the business – responsible for making or breaking revenue targets and the success or failure of major strategic developments.We tend to be quite analytical but it's not enough to rely on data – instead we need to be savvy communicators, speaking the same language as our co-workers and having discussions around what the data means.
Technology students are already one step ahead. I recently visited some students in Glasgow to find project groups confidently using management processes such as AGILE which promotes collaboration techniques, as well as encouraging leadership and motivational skills. I'm an advocate of these methods, as well as introducing practical resources like SFIA which helps employees define their areas of expertise and core competencies but avoiding technical jargon.
In business, there's undoubtedly a greater challenge ahead. We have gravitated towards hiring talent based on technical capabilities and have allowed certain behaviours as a result. Habits are already defined and stereotypical Tech personality types – 'the fixer', the 'hero' - are deeply engrained.
For those somewhat sceptical older workers, it's important to lay the groundwork, centre the conversation on outcomes and ask for feedback on the cultural change the team is being asked to embrace. It's no coincidence that the happiest and most productive Technology teams I've worked in have been those where everyone's role is clearly defined. After all, each of us works more effectively if we understand how we are contributing to the business and what our development plan looks like.
It'll take time but we'geeks' have broken out of the basement –change has already begun.
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