How to Communicate with an IT Person
As a business professional, have you ever experienced frustration when communicating with an IT person? The chances are that the answer is a resounding “YES!” This problem has been around for a few decades now and it is very common. It is possible to communicate with an IT person, but you have to understand why it doesn’t work and decide what to do about it.
Why it Doesn’t Work
There are three factors that are working against you when you try to communicate with an IT person:
- their talents
- their development
- their focus
IT people come from a specific pool of individuals. Most people who work in IT have chosen to do so because IT plays to their strengths. These individuals are highly talented problem solvers and analytical thinkers. They grew up tinkering with equipment and software. They may well have known more about computers by the time they were twelve than you ever will in your entire life. Their talents are focused on these technical areas. In general, this is not the same group of people who are naturally eloquent speakers, superb listeners and master communicators. That’s ok; we all have our talents and weaknesses. Surely the IT professionals have recognized this and worked on their communication skills.
Unfortunately, many IT people do not focus on developing these areas of weakness. Why not? Are they developing other skills? The truth is that most IT people are just trying to keep up with technology. It’s a fulltime job. We have a massive rate of change in IT and those professionals who don’t invest time in keeping up to date get left behind. This means that they don’t have time to keep up with technology and develop some stronger communication skills. Given the choice, most focus on technology to maintain their employability.
IT people are focused on IT solutions. They know all of the features of the solutions they work with. They spend hours investigating and learning about IT solutions. When you try to communicate your business issue to them, they instantly start evaluating IT solutions that can solve your problem. The IT person is solution-focused. Unfortunately, they are jumping the gun. In reality, the IT person should be working to develop a strong understanding of your business need. The IT person is not doing enough investigation into your business issue. They don’t have the talent or development to do so. Skipping this step will result in the IT person recommending the best solution their limited understanding of your business issue. You will likely be disappointed in the result.
What Can You Do?
Now that you know where this problem comes from, you can do something about it. Usually the first thing that comes to mind is “I need to learn more about IT so that I can communicate with these people on their level.” Will that really help?
Learn About IT
You decide to solve this problem on your end. You invest in developing some IT knowledge. You can take an introductory course, visit websites and blogs and read magazines. What kind of knowledge do you expect to gain? Generally, these sources are all going to provide with information about one thing: IT solutions. You will learn about the latest trends and technologies in the industry. This will help you to foster some goodwill with your IT people. Unfortunately, it’s not going to solve the communication issue. By learning about IT solutions, all that you have done is made yourself be part of the group that is focused on solutions. What you really need is someone to be focused on requirements.
Find the Right IT Person
Do you really know what your requirements are? Most people cannot state their IT requirements in clear terms. Others fall into the trap of solutionizing their requirements and consider the solution before the problem is well defined. How do you communicate with an IT person? You find the right one. You find the IT person who has some natural talent for communication, who works to develop his or her communication skills and who has the right focus: your business requirements. The person that you are looking for is not a developer, technician, or database administrator. You need a business analyst. Business analysts have all three things you are looking for: talent, development and focus. They derive their satisfaction from clearly understanding you and being able to communicate your requirements to the technical team. A BA is an IT communicator. If you want to communicate with an IT person, go and find a business analyst.