Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Andy Thurai

Related Topics: Agile Computing

Agile Computing: Blog Post

Cracking the IT Da Vinci Code

Five IT Communication Best Practices

When non-IT folks listen to technology staff talk about IT, it's a bit like trying to crack the Da Vinci Code. It sometimes seems like a secret language that confuses and maybe even intimidate business users. But by following a few communication best practices, IT personnel can crack "the code" and have an effective and successful dialogue with their business units.

Scene one: The CIO walked into her doctor's office complaining of sore throat and a fever.  She was a bit concerned about the rumors of swine flu hitting IT personnel.  "No," her doctor assured her, "You don't have swine flu. You have marginal  pharyngitis. I'm prescribing  broad spectrum, BID. Call me if you get worse."

She thought to herself, "I didn't understand one word you're saying, Speak to me in plain English!  All I want to know is what do I have!"

Scene two: The business manager walked into the CIO's office complaining about email problems.  She was a bit concerned about security breaches. "No," the CIO assured her, "There has been no breach." She then started to talk about ACL, BCP, Configuration Management and Packet Switched Network.


The manager thought to himself, " I don't understand one word you're saying, Speak to me in plain English! All I want to know is can I use my email!"

Hmmm. Does this sound familiar?

CRACKING THE IT DIVINCI CODE

Gobbledegook, jargon and acronyms that no one understands is endemic in the IT world. For IT professionals,  using a technology-based vocabulary is a default setting.  And it makes sense to streamline communication with acronyms and short-cuts when speaking to other members of the IT community.  But when speaking to non-IT folks, technology jargon can seem intimidating, almost like a foreign language. A Divinci Code  they can't easily crack.

When speaking or writing, if you tend to use technology terms that might not be part of your listeners' vocabulary, here are five tips for a more "audience friendly" communication style and a way to avoid "technology-speak."

1. Know Your  Audience. This is the cardinal rule of good communication.  Think like your listeners.  If your audience has a fair understanding of IT terms, then you can use them more freely. If  you're talking to "newbies", then perhaps temper how much technology jargon you use. But ultimately, it is better to assume the non -IT audience is NOT savvy about terms. Plain speak should be your language default setting.

2. Ask  Questions. The easiest way to find out if there is a communication divide is to ask your listeners if they know the terms you're using.  Periodically ask questions like, "Are we all on the same page?" or  "Is everyone following me?" By keeping your thumb on the pulse of the audience, you'll get a good sense of whether they are understanding or lost.

3. Use Parenthetical Explanations. If you do use a technology term, immediately explain it.  In an email or tweet it might be a parenthetical explanation.  "We're looking into ACL" (that's short for access control list: the list of the identities that are permitted to access our system resources). Just make sure your explanation is not complex or too wordy.

4. Use Analogies. Creating a simple comparison  is a great way to get your audience on board.  Instead of talking about packet switching, create the analogy of a puzzle. You send all the pieces of the puzzle, but they're just sent in a few separate packages. Most listeners "get' analogies and metaphors, especially if they're universal symbols.

5. Say it So Your Mother Can Understand It. Bottom line, speak in a plain a simple way.  Don't  speak "down" to anyone, but use explanations, analogies and terms that even your mother could understand! You'll have a far more productive IT conversation!

More Stories By Core Ideas

Loraine Antrim is co-founder of Core Ideas Communication, a communications consulting agency focused on presentation development and media training for C-suite executives. Core Ideas enables executives to package and communicate relevant and compelling messages in their presentations and interviews. Loraine's expertise is killing butterflies. You know, butterflies: the feeling in your stomach before you have to present or speak in public. Loraine works with executives to create a powerful story, memorable messages and an authentic delivery style. Confidence kicks in, and butterflies scatter. Nice work killing butterflies! You can contact Loraine at: manager at coreideas.com

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...