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Abstract

One of the most important skills all IT staff need to develop today is how to communicate effectively with business. Over and over, research has shown that if IT and business cannot speak the same language, focus on the same issues and communicate constructively, they cannot build a trusting relationship. And business is consistently more negative about IT’s ability to communicate effectively than IT is. In fact, even while IT collaboration is improving, business’s assessment of IT’s communication skills is declining. While much attention has been paid to organizational alignment between IT and business (e.g., governance, structure) very little has been paid to the nature and impact of the social dimension of alignment, a big element of which involves communication. To explore the business and interpersonal competencies that IT staff will need in order to do their jobs effectively over the next five–seven years and what companies should be doing to help develop them, the authors convened a focus group of senior IT managers from a variety of different organizations. This paper documents the results of this discussion, integrating them with findings from the research and practitioner literature. It begins by characterizing the state of communication in the business–IT relationship and why “good communication” is becoming increasingly important. Then, it explores what is meant by “good communication” in this relationship and looks at some of the inhibitors of effective communication between these groups. Finally, it discusses the key communication skills that need to be developed by IT staff and makes recommendations for how organizations can improve or develop communication in the business–IT relationship. It concludes that good communication has both social and organizational dimensions, both of which need to be appropriately managed. It also shows that there is a “virtuous circle” of communication, with is associated with improved IT performance and perceptions of IT value.

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