By Patrick K. Burke
It’s easy to get caught up in our own circles of like-minded co-workers and friends. Because of common interests, you develop a lingo, a sort of shorthand way of talking, which might seem like another language to those beyond that circle.
Some news journalists often use dark humor when cranking out stories with very serious consequences as a sort of defense mechanism to the bad things that beset good people.
Friends talking Fantasy Football picks or epic Super Bowl fails take on the fervor usually found in debating theologians.
In the tech space, it’s not uncommon to hear us-against-them banter between in-office tech workers as they do their best to undo an end user’s latest “oops.”
If you’re not a part of one of these groups, there’s an understandable disconnect between you and them.
I’m reminded of a great promo put out by ESPN a few years ago that demonstrates this. In it, two high school jocks are absorbed in intense conversation over some new-age baseball statistics and complicated formulas in the cafeteria. One of the jocks asks the other about San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum’s WHIP (walks plus hits per inning).
“Lincecum has a WHIP of 1.23 at home but 1.20 away. What do you think accounts for that .03 difference?”
As he asks the question, some members of the chess club walk by their table.
“Nerds,” deadpans one the chess players, and the other players laugh at the jocks.
No matter your interests or job description, talking shop doesn’t always translate to others outside that circle.
This is something in which to be hyper-aware, especially in the world of IT. As CIOs become more involved with the business side, it’s imperative they are able to clearly communicate how IT adds to the bottom line. CEOs most likely don’t want to hear every last detail about the benefits of open source or the latest version of the GNU General Public License. The CEO wants to know the ROI (return on investment) and when it can be implemented.
If the CMO wants to strike up some buzz and hold an online voting contest for a new product or a giveaway, the CIO might want to clearly shed some light on the maturity level of the Internet in general and on the existence of vote-rigging software. Or point out forums such as 4chan, which often launch campaigns aimed at dinging corporations and embarrassing celebrities.
Take, for instance, a PepsiCo crowdsourcing promotion to name a new flavor of Mountain Dew. The site set up for the promotion was bombarded with inappropriate names (imagine a flavor named “Diabetes?”) for the new product, and the site was subsequently shut down.
If there’s a problem with a new system or application, it’s up to the CIO to convey to business leaders what’s not working and how to go about fixing it. If put into financial terms instead of technical terms, there’s a greater chance the problem will be resolved sooner rather than later, and a greater chance a new application will get a green light.
Now that CIOs are being looped into business decisions, it’s time to adjust your lingo from tech speak to one that reflects business acumen.