In our rapidly changing world, technology is advancing at an astonishing pace. Organisations are undertaking more projects to leverage data and technology’s potential. However, this surge in technological activity has given rise to a significant gap in comprehension between those generating ideas and the technical teams responsible for materialising them.
This gap is widening due to the accelerated evolution of technology, which is resulting in increasingly intricate technical solutions. This complexity is challenging for individuals without a technical background to fully grasp.
This divergence in understanding is giving rise to notable challenges. Unrealistic expectations are emerging because the true complexity of tasks is not well understood. Project objectives are becoming muddled as different parties interpret them differently. Additionally, suboptimal decisions are being made due to ineffective communication.
In this blog, my intention is to thoroughly explore this issue. I will delve into its origins, present concrete real-world instances, and propose strategies for improvement in communication between tech teams and stakeholders.
Unpacking the challenge
The primary challenge stems from the complexity of modern technology and data projects. These undertakings involve intricate steps and technical decisions that can bewilder individuals without technical expertise. What might seem straightforward to those without a technical background can become problematic when attempting to execute a project. This complexity is especially apparent when aiming to automate a manual process.
Drawing from my personal experience, I encountered this challenge while working on a project aimed at automating a financial document known as “live stats.” This document displays the billings per team, per week, and per month, individually split. However, a complication arose as we were sourcing data from an application programming interface (API) where the teams weren’t categorised as needed. So, the system we were pulling the data from did not have the teams on the system and was a manual process for the finance team. As a result, live stats could not be recreated exactly unless there were changes to the actual underlying system.
Consequences of Miscommunication
Gaps in communication can lead to various problems during a project’s journey. Sometimes, what stakeholders expect doesn’t match what the tech team can actually do, leading to frustration. This can occur because the tech team finds it hard to explain complex things to people who aren’t tech-savvy, or because stakeholders might not be open to considering different viewpoints.
Taking into account both perspectives is crucial to keep the project on the right track. The tech team needs to communicate clearly to people who aren’t familiar with technical details so that everyone can understand. At the same time, stakeholders should be open to understanding technical aspects too.
This balanced approach ensures that everyone is on the same page. When both sides understand the technical challenges and possibilities, and when the tech team grasps what stakeholders want, decisions are more likely to align with the project’s goals from beginning to end.
In my ongoing project, we encountered an issue by not informing the stakeholders about the challenges that arose while attempting to recreate the live stats. This occurred because we hadn’t established a clear procedure for the finance team, and we hadn’t ensured effective communication between them and the tech team. Establishing these protocols would have greatly eased the transition. So, what might appear as a ‘simple’ matter from the stakeholder’s viewpoint was a result of our inability to explain things clearly as it was not as simple as it seems. Furthermore, we didn’t entirely grasp the complexities involved in how the finance team was reconstructing the live stats.
The Way Forward
Navigating this intricate challenge requires a dual-pronged approach, delving into the intricacies of both tech and non-tech realms. Facilitating effective communication demands clarity in both directions. For tech teams, the task is twofold: communicating intricate processes in a digestible manner and understanding the nuanced objectives of the stakeholders. Stakeholders, in turn, benefit from an increased appreciation of technical complexities, enabling a richer and more meaningful exchange of ideas.
For example, a very complex thing to understand in data is relational databases. Trying to explain this to a non-tech person can be extremely difficult, however, it is a very crucial part of data. Therefore, using visual aids can help facilitate the conversation and make communication between the tech teams and non-tech stakeholders more effective.
Empowering Stakeholders and Tech Teams
Although the use of different materials is important, there needs to be some basic data knowledge from the stakeholders’ side of things. This doesn’t mean they should be tech experts but rather, they need to offer a working understanding of key concepts in order to understand more complex procedures that are explained to them by the tech team. On the other hand, the tech team needs to possess the skill to communicate clearly with no jargon, to ensure insights are accessible and meaningful to stakeholders.
In conclusion, while the communication gap presents challenges, it’s not impossible to overcome. By working together to understand and learn, organisations can create a better environment. When both tech and non-tech perspectives come together, projects can succeed with clear understanding, effective communication, and teamwork.
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