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“How do you translate what you do every day and make it relevant and important to the rest of the business, so you keep your projects, you keep your people, and you keep your funding,” asked Dwayne Melançon, CTO of Tripwire at the IT Leadership Summit at the 2012 Interop conference in Las Vegas.
Melançon refers to this as “above the line reporting.” Everything below the line is technical stuff that the business decision makers don’t want to know what’s going on. So what you as a technical person have to do is translate the technical granular things to the people who don’t know what IT does.
The business will always challenge you with questions such as “Why should I give you more money?” and “What are you doing with the money I already gave you?”
“If you don’t have a good answer for that, that they understand in relation to something like revenue or customer retention or profitability or cost containment, then you’re probably not going to get the money you need to keep your part of the business going,” Melançon said.
A good example of this is patching. In the IT department they can talk all day about patch effectiveness or time to patch. But if you’re talking to a CFO or someone in the marketing department, they don’t want to know what patching is. So you have to translate the subject of “patching” into what its effect is on issues that matter to them, such as order fulfillment, revenue recognition, or customer reputational damage, said Melançon.
“You have to present things in terms they understand and business lines that they care about and company priorities that they care about and get out of the IT specific jargon,” advised Melançon.
If you’re on board with this concept and want to be aggressive about learning how to communicate with the business, you can do what Tripwire did. They forced themselves to learn IT-to-business communications first hand by putting their non-technical CFO in charge of IT. This required their IT staff to continuously be able to present their stuff to a non-technical guy.
“If you want to have a healthy life in IT, you need to communicate more,” said Melançon.
DISCLOSURE: I also write for the Tripwire blog, and Tripwire is a client of my company, Spark Media Solutions.
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The original article/video can be found at Talk to ME Tuesday: Presenting IT to the Business in a Language They Understand