Learning the Language of IT

Learning the Language of IT

In college, my French professor often said, the only way you're going to truly learn this language is if you go and live in a French-speaking country. The same may seem to apply to communication between finance and IT.

Too often, IT teams are summoned to a finance meeting to lay out their plans for supporting new business projects and eyes glaze over. There is little patience among finance and other business lines for the mechanics of it all and, therefore, discussions shut down. The problem is that with that breaking of talks inevitably comes a finished product that does not reflect the true requirements of the finance team. For instance, a data visualization application might lack essential modeling capabilities or a report might miss critical hooks to databases throughout the organization. Going back to the drawing board to include these pieces results in delays that could have been avoided if finance had a working knowledge of IT's language and IT better understood how to present to finance.

Now, most finance teams don't have the time to "go live" with IT long enough to fully learn the language, but there are things you as the CFO can do to foster a better dialogue. A close friend of mine, Harvard Business School Professor Linda A. Hill, recently co-authored a book "Being the Boss" with Kent Lineback (in the spirit of disclosure, I'm mentioned in the "Acknowledgements") that offers guidelines for evolving into a successful manager.

In addition to managing yourself and managing your network, Hill and Lineback consider a key ingredient to being the best leader possible is to manage your team. They emphasize the power of communication and encourage leaders to define the future of their team as a whole. This requires teams -- with you as the driving force -- to set common and collaborative goals.

What would likely emerge from such planning is an awareness of a communication gap between finance and IT. From there, you could take time to determine what knowledge needs to be shared for comprehension to improve. A frank discussion sends a clear message to each team about what information is essential to decision making. For instance, talking line-by-line about code might not be appropriate, but addressing the drop-down menus or query options would be. Realizing each other's level of understanding before you get into the stress of project cycles saves wear and tear on the team and will eventually help bring new applications into production faster.

Note: "Being the Boss" was selected by CIO Magazine as part of this month's "What We're Reading."

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