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The value of communication is not purely based on logical reasoning with technical jargon but rather in adapting a business mindset – and focus on the business value in what you have to offer. Key in the new business oriented communication is to build trust and an emotional linkage with business where IT qualifies communication on the same level. Only then, IT can truly make an impact on business and actually deliver value.

I studied engineering, mathematics and physics in my youth where logical reasoning is the key for solving a technical problem. By using structure, procedures and logical reasoning, we could prove that our answer or solution was right. It was a very logical way to create value in the technical world. When I study CIOs and other IT managers approach to communication, I recognise a similar behaviour – a logical reasoning to prove a point or solve a problem – often with limited success. The fact is that I meet a large number of CIOs and IT managers describing a sense of frustration that business does not understand their reasoning and adapting their point of view. Could it be the case that we (IT professionals) have the wrong approach to communication and change management?

During the last coupe of years, I have reconsidered my views on communication. I have numerous times “struck out” in getting approval or recognition from business management using a communication technique I learn in university – a logical reasoning leveraging structure, technical jargon – proving the correctness in my solution. The fact is that business are triggered by another type of reasoning – “what does this mean for me”? It is a reasoning based on trust, showing the benefits, and using business jargon. I could say that it an emotional and relational approach to communication – where the logical reasoning has limited success.

My finding is that many IT organizations (staffed with technical staff even on senior management levels) have a logical approach to communication. I see IT departments building up mountains of processes, technical design, technical jargon and maturity assessments to prove a point of view communicated to business. There is a belief that if we only, using logical reasoning, can prove the correctness on our analysis, then business will recognise and buy our point of view. This is not working! The fact is that the IT department gets alienated in the corporation with this approach to communication and is seen as a “technical monkey” – not in touch with business reality. Would you trust him/her?

A good example is the focus on Service Level Agreements. IT set up SLAs on critical applications to quality ensure it s availability. But SLAs is a technical formula for running a logical reasoning. I usually here business saying – “interesting, but what does this actually mean? I only see loss in revenues.” What if the SLA metric can express (and communicate) business impact in a way that makes sense for business? It would allow for a different discussion on how business can leverage IT for optimize revenues. Good stuff!

Today, my starting point in communication is the ancient Greek philosophy of rhetoric and persuasion – pathos, logos and ethos.

“Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it is a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader. Pathos is an appeal to emotion, and is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response. Logos is an appeal to logic, and is a way of persuading an audience by reason.”     – Yourdictionary.com

The idea of persuasion is to combine all elements of rhetoric in communication with business. There obviously has to be a logical reasoning (logos) but also high focus on ethos (building a sense of trust) and pathos (emotional connections). Most IT department communicates only out of logos create a sense of distance, disbelief and lack of reliability.

My point of view is that if IT wants to be recognised as a strategic partner with business, IT has to change its way of communicating (all elements of persuasion). The value is not in the logical reasoning with technical jargon but rather in adapting a business mindset – and focus on the business value in what you have to offer. What does this mean for me? Key in the new business oriented communication is to build trust and an emotional linkage with business where IT qualifies communication on the same level. Only then, IT can truly make an impact on business and actually deliver value.

My recommendations:

  • Review how your IT department communicates with business. Is it based on logical reasoning with technical jargon or from a business perspective? Logos, ethos and/or pathos? Know your audience!
  • Who are your audience and key stakeholders? What triggers them to “buy” an IT point of view? Build a communication/marketing plan to set the foundation for business interaction.
  • Ask business how they want to be approached – and how they want IT to communicate. If we do not ask – we will not have the answers!
  • Recruit a communication or marketing officer to change the way IT communicate with business.
  • Contact Hans Gillior and the Sofigate to guide your IT department in the right direction. It is a small step with high impact on how IT partner with business.

The main difference between mathematics/engineering and business decision-making is that there is no correct answer that can be proven right. Business decisions are often based on an analysis of the unknown and abstract where subjective views are a base for decisions – often based on experience. Two worlds are colliding. I can only go back to myself and the decisions I make – buying a house or car. In the end, the decisions are based on gut feelings after the house or car qualified on a logical level. How does the new house or car feel like? It is the same with IT.

Hans Gillior – Senior Advisor (Sofigate)