7 Communication Imperatives for Technology Leaders in the Age of Digital Disruption

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Technology leaders who prioritize—and practice—a new way of communicating can become a strategic driver of the successful digital transformation of a company. Sappington offers communication tips to help leaders organize, guide, and advise people at all levels of the company, from the Board of Directors to their technology teams.

Technology leaders who prioritize—and practice—a new way of communicating can become a strategic driver of the successful digital transformation of a company. To assume this role, it is critical that technology leaders organize, guide, and advise people at all levels of the company, from the Board of Directors to their technology teams, according to Tim Goggin, CEO of Sappington.

The reality of digital business transformation in today’s enterprises has created new technology ambitions among business leaders and increasing responsibilities for IT leaders. It has also amplified the disparity between business and technology due to a lack of communication talent.

The technology leaders’ communication challenges in the age of digital disruption was a subject of conversation throughout the CIO community this week. The CIO Executive Council claimed that IT is in a communication crisis, according to the “2015 Power of Effective IT Communication” benchmark survey. The study called out that only four out of a hundred IT leaders believe that they are effective in communicating with their non-IT colleagues. It was a key theme at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, where more than 700 IT leaders and corporate executives came together to discuss digital disruption.

“Tech leaders can spark a new conversation where they are the strategic thinkers, as well as the tactical leaders. They can help people envision the digital future and define the roadmap to get there. To do that, they benefit from creating an effective two-way communication system that guides people through their concerns—even at the Board of Director level,” noted Goggin. According to MIT Center for Information Systems Research survey data discussed at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Boards of Directors of large organizations believe that more than 30 percent of the company’s revenues are under threat as a result of unpreparedness for digital disruption.

To help technology leaders harness this opportunity and assume the leadership role they belong in, Goggin and the team at Sappington offer communication tips for championing digital transformations:

Expand involvement in Board meetings. Start developing relationships with the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee. This requires courage and vulnerability to demand more time to present ideas and concerns at Board Meetings, while establishing ongoing dialogues with the CEO and other corporate leaders.

Reach to understand the business. The technology organization really needs to understand why the company exists and the strategic plan for advancing the company. With this knowledge, technology leaders can bring a unique perspective to the business because they are closest to all of the potential digital opportunities to grow the business.

Communicate about growth opportunities. Engage business counterparts and win them over by sharing information about growth opportunities through technology. Technology leaders know the potential of platforms, and can help the business understand how technology can be the platform for growth.

Create the Digital North Star. The transformation into a digital business requires refining the company’s vision to lead with digital. It is the tech leader’s responsibility to help create a simple, one-sentence vision for the company. This action can unify the executive team and Board of Directors.

Converge with business. The CIO Executive Council proclaims that technology and business need to do more than align, they need to converge. In this new world of digital business transformation, technology leaders can lead the dialogue to help these disparate audiences focus on the digital vision as one unit.

Speak as a human being. One of the obstacles to bringing business and technology together has remained the almost constant use of different lexicons. Business jargon and tech speak can sound intellectual, but if one side doesn’t understand the other, authentic collaboration is thwarted. Technology leaders can skip the use of acronyms to find common ground with business.

Establish a trusted technology “brand.” It’s become apparent that business-minded people aren’t interested in the features of technology. They’re interested in the business outcomes that are enabled by technology. Technology leaders can establish an internal brand committed to influencing business change, and then deliver on the brand promise as a top priority.

Keep practicing. Many technology professionals believe that great communication talent is someone else’s skillset, yet everyone can develop it and foster it with the right guidance. With nearly two-thirds of IT leaders dissatisfied with external communications efforts, there is always room to grow and refine.

About Sappington
Sappington clears the way for digital business success by improving communication between technology and business people so they align around a shared digital perspective. The consultancy ensures that technology can strategically advance enterprise business. http://www.sappington.co

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Erika Schmidt
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