Tips on 'Speaking IT' to the Rest of the Company
Ever feel like you're speaking another language at work? The fact is, you kind of are. While IT jargon might seem elementary to you, much of what you try to communicate to the rest of your organization gets lost somewhere between their in-box and their "to do" list.
Lots of technically oriented people tend to assume everyone speaks their language, but most non-IT workers don't know what the heck you're talking about, according to author Jonathan Spira.
Spira, CEO and chief analyst of Basex, a research firm focusing on issues companies face in the knowledge economyrecently wrote the book “Overload! How Too Much InformationIs Hazardous to Your Organization” (Wiley, May 2011). He tells IT TechNewsDaily how IT people can better communicate with everyone else in the company.
Why do people glaze over when the IT Department starts talking?
IT departmentsfrequently fail to understand how knowledge workersactually use their tools, which of course range from e-mail to word processing to CRM and end up speaking in "IT speak" which comes off as gobbledygook to most non IT people.
What's the biggest communication mistake "technical" people make when talking to the rest of the organization?
Technically oriented people tend to assume everyone speaks their language so that's the mode they employ when troubleshooting problems and evaluating requests and general interaction. Of course, most knowledge workers don't speak in tech jargon and many have little to no understanding of the technical underpinnings of their hardware and software - nor should they have to.
What's more effective, communicating about things as they come up or having a monthly or weekly time set aside for communicating about many issues as once?
There are many ways to communicate information in an effective manner without overloading the recipient. Keep in mind two factors — namely importance and urgency — and the rest will follow naturally. If something is both urgent and important ("Because of a new virus, you need to run this update right now"), it should be sent out immediately.
On the other hand, if something is neither urgent nor important, it can wait and perhaps be included in a more general communiqué. What is truly important, however, is that anyone who is communicating multiple points in any kind of message, be it e-mail or a note on an intranet, should tell the reader what to expect ("There are four important points that are included in this week's Tech Update Memo").
Our research shows that most people read the first few sentences of an e-mailand relatively few read anything beyond that. As a result, if the communicator needs the reader to read and digest information, this has to be clearly communicated up front.
How much information can an average employee absorb before they just aren't listening anymore?
There's no hard and fast rule as to how much information a typical worker can absorb. In fact, people tend to be pretty good sponges and they can absorb a lot — if they actually see it. Because of information overload, workers miss a lot of information (be it contained in e-mail, search results or even paper memos) so the question is less about absorption and more about making sure that workers see the information they need to see.
What's the biggest mistake managers make when communicating with employees?
The biggest mistake that managers (or anyone) can make when communicating with employees is assuming that an individual has received or is aware of certain information. Given the amount of information that is being thrust in the direction of individual employees, there is a high degree of likelihood that some information was overlooked. In addition, many messages are far from clear and an individual might have interpreted something far differently than the originator of the information/memo/etc. had intended.
What's the easiest thing an IT manager can do to improve his or her communication?
The easiest thing an IT manager can do to improve his communications is twofold. Have non-technical people review key memos before they are sent.
Read all messages before hitting send and ask the question "would my mother understand this?"