Easily communicate the things business teams care about

9 Nov 2020

Business and IT teams care about different things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate the things business teams care about.

Sure, at a high level both groups care about serving customers and making a profit, but at a day to day level business and technical stakeholders have different goals, different success criteria, and different performance metrics.

For example, Sales team care about sales targets, customer service teams care about operational metrics, and social media teams care about engagement. On the other hand, IT teams care about system uptime, low defect counts and delivering working software, to name but a few.

Each group has a different measure of performance set by their company. Those measures usually impact both the annual performance reviews and the pay of the people in each team.

If you work in IT, is your pay impacted by the performance of the call centre team? Do you care about that team’s KPIs? Probably not.

Why is this important? When you communicate with your business stakeholders, the messages you give need to align with the things THEY care about and not only what is essential to you. Because if you only talk about something in the way you find important your message will not get through.

How can you do this? The first step to communicate things the business team care about is to understand what the business teams care about.

What do business teams care about?

Like all people, business stakeholders care more about the things their teams are measured against than what is important to the IT teams. If a business team is working with an IT team, they may want something new built, an update to an existing application, or perhaps something is broken and needs fixing. Whatever they want, it will almost certainly have a positive impact on their goals.

Before you start panicking, this doesn’t mean you need to know the different goals of each team (that would be a lot of work!). There is only a small set of things that most business teams care about when working with IT teams:

  • What will I get?
  • Will it do what I need?
  • When will I have it?
  • How much will it cost?

Whenever you are communicating with the business teams, keep these questions in mind. Whatever message you have to give, try to structure your information in a way that relates to one or more of these questions. Do that, and your business stakeholders will be happy with your communication.

Communicate in a way that connects to the things the business teams care about

For example, You are fixing a bug/defect in the billing software, and the accounting team manager asks you how the work is going:

  • Don’t reply with a list of the work you have done, or the work that is still to do
  • Don’t describe the solution
  • Do give them an update that answers the questions listed above — e.g. ‘We are making progress with all the requirements. We will finish on Thursday next week. It is taking less time than we expected so the cost will be less’.

This example answers every one of the questions, and it didn’t need any technical detail.

If your status update isn’t as positive as this one, you still need to answer the three questions. They will want to know if there are time, cost or scope changes. If you have bad news to deliver, give the high-level answers to the questions business teams care about, then ask if they want more detail.

The great thing about this approach is it is short and clear. You won’t get bogged down in detail, the business stakeholder will get the information they care about, and you can both get back to your own work.

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Get your message across

‘Get your message across’ course with Chris Fenning

In this course you’ll learn how to:

  • Communicate effectively with people in different teams
  • Discover how to create relevant messages your audience can relate to and understand
  • Simplify complex ideas and communicate in a way that is jargon-free


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