IT professionals have been urged to invest in their communication skills if they want to make an impact in their organisations.
The biggest challenge for IT professionals is not coming up with good ideas, but persuading the rest of the business to accept them, says Jack Santos, research V-P at analyst group Gartner.
"A lot of people who focus on technology might think that communications skills don't mater," he says," but if they are passionate about what they do and want to influence the company on the best way forward, the only way to do that is to convince others."
The power of persuasion – a Gartner guide for IT professionals. (Requires registration)
People are not born with strong communications and persuasion skills - they have to be learned, Santos tells Computer Weekly.
"The fundamental mistake people make is that they don't know the motivations of the people they are communicating with," he says. "And they make assumptions about the target audience, what they want out of the conversation, and the project. It is really important for IT professionals to understand the other's point of view."
"One of the other things I see happening is that IT professionals tend to be poor at checking themselves. Its an important point to understand your own motivation, what's driving you, and what you will settle for in a negotiation. Its about being honest with yourself and understanding the work you do," he says.
The art of storytelling is a powerful technique that can help IT professionals get their point across, says Santos.
"We like technology. And we are also focused on metrics. We like things to be black and white. But often they aren't. The professional ability to weave a story and to make it interesting and then come to a succinct point, in these days of information overload, is very important," he says.
He quotes the example of one organisation that had 27 different e-mail systems aquired through acquisitions. The IT department wanted to persuade the business to invest in rationalising its IT systems.
"This person was able to really burn that number 27b into everyone's mind. It almost became a battle cry. It became a flag for why the company had so many different systems. Bringing up stories of how that company was doing the same thing in different areas was really effective, and it led to a consolidation of all those e-mail systems to about three."
Storytelling can also make the difference between a tedious Powerpoint presentation and a memorable one, says Santos.
"The significant thing we do wrong is that we, the presenters, use PowerPoint as our script. It makes sense because we want to stay on track. But the red flag immediately should be - if you have more than three points and a dozen words on the slide, it just does not make an impression."
Good communication skills will benefit IT professionals at all levels, no matter how technical they are, says Santos.
"For most professionals, it is the satisfaction of seeing something that you are passionate about actually happen. The only way those things happen is if you get people behind you to support you. The other side of the coin is that if you have great ideas, but can't convince and cajole, you are not fulfilling your potential."
The power of persuasion – a Gartner guide for IT professionals. (requires registration)
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