Speaking to non-IT people

If you are an IT person, you’ve probably noticed that it can be difficult to communicate with not-IT types at work, at home, in the checkout line, etc. It’s like they are a bunch of Muggles trying to speak British to us. You know what I mean, “the bloody screen (interface) wasn’t what I bloomin’ expected (coded correctly) and now I’m brassed off (you suck).”

How do you avoid these Harry Potter-like encounters? Your best bet might be to work through a translator. Seriously. Business Analysts and Project Managers are supposed to (read: stuck) be able to talk to the business and to the IT dude (you). This is one of the least painful ways to deal with the problem, but it does add overhead and potential complexity to the conversation.

The second option is to become a translation expert yourself. This one is a bit more work out of the gate, but it can payoff in time savings later. Of course, the pain-point here is staying on top of your IT game (i.e. the Windows 8 requirement to type with 11 fingers, or whatever) while learning about the business side of things.

The upside is this will make you a more effective member of the business (i.e. less likely to be sacked). Being an IT person that communicates well with the business takes a few key steps:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask. If the person you are talking to says something like “we’d fancy a report so we can leverage the bloody price point.” You can ask “huh?” or try “what data do you need on the report to allow you to see that?” Get specific and find out what they need and how they’ll use it. If you’re willing to feel a little daft up front, you can learn a lot more quickly and be the smart one faster than anyone else.

2. Don’t be afraid to learn. It’s pretty likely that your job has some on-line and live training. Look for the “business acumen” type of courses, or anything that looks like it’s for new people to the business. I’ve sat through a few of these myself in the past 3-4 years. It can make you feel off your trolly, but once you get past that, you’ll learn loads.

3. Don’t be afraid to try. You don’t want to be blinkered about it. Open you mind and try something new. One extra tip: Join a Toastmaster club in your company, or nearby. Yeah, you saw that coming. It’s one of the best ways to kill two bollocks with one blimey. You’ll practice communications skills, and get to know others in your business at the same time.

Don’t let yourself get lost in translation. Use a translator when you need to, but make the change to get out there and learn about the business you’re in. If you ask questions, learn about the business, and try to get more involved, then you’ll be more effective and Bob’s your uncle.  It’s blooming brilliant!

Note: If you’re not sure about some of the British-isms here, check my source – http://www.effingpot.com/slang.shtml.

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