Talking About Technology With Senior Executives

One of the biggest hurdles that keeps senior executives from getting closer to technology is the complexity of today’s IT environments, further obscured by the endless stream of buzzwords, jargon, and product names.

Working with executives over the last 15 years I realized that we can make it much easier for executives to “speak technology” if we split it’s “language” into two parts: grammar and vocabulary.

Grammar: A language’s grammar defines the structure and rules for composition of words into meaningful sentences. Similarly, the grammar of technology is the set of architecture rules and constraints that define how systems and components can be combined.

Vocabulary: This is the long list of (buzz)words and technologies that we use, often wrapped in jargon and fuzzy marketing terms.

Executives are largely put off by technology’s seemingly endless, unnecessarily cryptic, and ever changing vocabulary.

In contrast, it’s grammar, the rules that define how technology operates and makes decisions, is relatively static, and much more approachable to executives.

So to established decision transparency you should leave buzzwords and products aside and instead focus on the available option space, the inherent trade-offs between the available choices, and the principles that guide these decisions.

Senior executives can much more easily grasp technology concepts and be involved in decision making once you remove the fog of jargon.

They are used to making decisions affecting their organizations, so the “grammar” of our world is actually quite familiar to them. This often comes as a surprise to both sides that always assumed that executives “aren’t technical”.

Presenting technology decisions in a way that emphasizes constraints and trade-offs without falling into buzzwords and jargon is incredibly difficult, but actually very helpful for IT teams and CIOs.

Things may be complex, but nothing is ever confusing in and of itself.

If something is confusing, that’s because you made it so.

In a nutshell: To established decision transparency you should leave buzzwords and products aside and instead focus on the available option space.

Originally published at https://www.henricodolfing.com.

Written by

I help C-level executives in the financial service industry with interim management and recovering troubled technology projects.

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