Targeting Execs With Plain Language

Industry development analyst John Stelzer urged IT professionals seeking senior executive support from tech-challenged execs to keep in mind the irony of an anti-illiteracy ad on a San Francisco bus that urged those in need to ‘write’ for more information.

This is a perfect example of the relationship between an IT manager and his C-Level executive: Differing styles and methods of communication make it difficult to bridge what sometimes is an ocean-sized gap, with all the IT managers' alphabet soup terms, constantly changing software programs and ever-present left-brain ”techie” language.

During a recent Webinar, Stelzer shared some proven strategies for IT managers to educate executives and get them firmly on board behind IT projects.

By dividing senior executives into two categories, Stelzer indicated the range of skills the C-Level IT manager brings to the job. There’s the ”merely unknowing” exec, who can be helped by improved communication, and the ”unknowing and unwilling” types who require an emphasis on broad and tangible results instead of technical terms and tools.

“Upper-level executives often invest their time working on quarterly performance metrics, fine-tuning the strategic direction, responding to competitive threats, trying to improve market position and increasing investor worth and financial stability. Unless your initial contribution seems to contribute to one or more of these objectives, it’s very difficult to get it on their radar screen,” Stelzer said.

Advocating using ”Newspeak,” or plain-English descriptions of your project’s positive impacts, Stelzer said ”TLAs” -- those three-letter acronyms that dominate in IT professionals’ conversations and presentations -- should be avoided at all costs.

“Even phrases like enterprise application integration should be dropped in favor of a less technical description like ‘having the right information at the right place at the right time,’” he said.

Stelzer also described how precisely timed elevator and hallway speeches (punched up with ”head-turning” statistics from specific industry analysts and case studies) can show how increased data accuracy and availability cuts or avoids costs, reduces cycle time and errors, liberates resources and affects other specific performance metrics often pored over by executives concerned with both top- and bottom-line performance.

“A company with a 3 percent profit margin would have to increase revenue $100,000 to get the same bottom line benefit of a $3,000 expense reduction tied to an increase in process efficiency,” he noted.

Properly integrated point-of-sale and purchase order processing can ensure optimum inventory levels that maintain company liquidity, sales levels and customer confidence by avoiding stock outs. A process improvement that cuts the need for building new warehouses can lead to a”direct cost avoidance with hard dollar implications.”

Since processes often span departments, Stelzer shared more tactics for breaking informational bottlenecks and eliminating stall points existing between separate department silos.

But there are some pitfalls.”Integration at heart of every effective electronic commerce initiative … automation without integration is futile, because it means you still have manual intervention with the adverse effects on time and accuracy.”

One integrated-document project went awry by sorting by EDI transaction number instead of easier-understood chronological or alphabetical order. Stelzer also identified some”placebo metrics” that measure things that don’t matter to senior executives.

During the rest of his presentation, Stelzer shared more stellar sources business statistics, differences between all-in-one, one-off and modular integration packages and more proven strategies to work around budgetary and bandwidth constraints.

About the Author

Gian Trotta is ebizQ's managing editor. Before joining ebizQ, he developed a wide variety of virtual news and community features for Newsday, Prodigy, Time Inc., Excite, and MSNBC.

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