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Do business decision makers understand tech?

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We often hear that ‘the business decision makers won’t understand our tech messaging – we need to talk business benefit; we need to talk solution’. To some degree this is true. However, dumbing down in any form is dangerous. Times have changed, and we are more tech savvy than we have ever been.

In everyday life, the average Joe uses cloud storage to back up photos from smart phones and access documents; uses apps to get better deals on everyday items (such as Costa or Sainsbury’s), and gadgets to monitor heart rates, how many steps you have done in the day, and what to eat.

This involvement of technology in our lives happens before we have even stepped into the office – so to dumb down people that don’t sit in the IT department is wrong. The game has changed.

I am not saying that you need to go into the depths of point to point integration, java code or application development. But we can attribute a certain level of knowledge to our business users – and this bar needs to be raised. The expectations of decision makers are changing: what they get at home, on the iPad, smartphone or smart TV, they now expect at work.

This is not specific to Generation Y. Generation X and baby boomers have had to adapt (often having more disposable income to spend on gadgets and tech) and have high expectations of what tech can do. However, these are often matched with years of experience in dealing with projects that haven’t delivered and with that comes the expectation that work related systems are slow.

Let’s take a step back.

Understand people’ skills rather than job roles

You should complete a brief audit of your own skills, merge your technology knowledge at home and at work, combine this with your approach to solving IT or application problems (usually Googling) and you start to see the patterns, and expose the characteristics of real people rather than job roles.

You could further segment based on Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption lifecycle – we all know those people who have the latest and greatest tech as soon as it’s out (early adopters) and the laggards who are the last to upgrade their feature phone to a smart phone.

Map out how you would like to communicate

It is also important to map out how we most like to be communicated to – this may be slightly truncated at work versus at home. Of course, the time you have to look through email marketing, or twitter feeds, will determine your bias towards one communication approach over another. To be successful we need to understand people, in a holistic view, rather than just a job role, or decision maker. The way decision makers deal with technology in their personal and work life is similar regardless of their current job.

Don’t tell granny how to suck eggs

So how can we benchmark decision makers for assumed knowledge? My advice: don’t tell a granny how to suck eggs. It is probably best to assume they know the basics of enterprise architecture, integration, cloud and applications – especially the senior level decision makers. If they have been responsible (even in part) for signing off large IT projects, they will understand what they are agreeing to. It may only be top level (so Google your terms to make sure the right definitions come up. If not, make sure to include them in your communications).

Get the message right for the right person. This may be the business benefit, it may be cost efficiencies, but the supply chain director will appreciate your delving the level below to explain the cost efficiencies gained by integrating his two key systems, or by adding bespoke reporting, or implementing a new tracking application. Otherwise it is just smoke and mirrors and can often be perceived as a lack of understanding when it comes to the customer’s problems.

Zoe MerchantDo business decision makers understand tech?