How to Create Your Technology Team Collaboration

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You know how frustrating it feels to get a simple, plain English answer from a technology person? They love to confuse you with show-off words. Technology folks rely on leaders to be grossly uninformed.

I remember one of our regular morning team meetings. We would go around the room with each member giving a brief status on his or her piece of the project. When it was Jim’s turn, he confidently launched into the reason why he was behind schedule.

The code he was working on was especially complicated, he explained. As he cavalierly carried on with his defense, Bob’s shaking head slowly came to rest on the table. His repeated caution, “Jim, no Jim” could be clearly heard around the room.

Good fortune wasn’t smiling down on Jim that day.
Yes see, I had spent most of the previous day in the very same “complicated” code that Jim had so unwisely chosen to blame. Not complicated at all. It was a learning opportunity for everyone in the room -- sometimes leaders aren’t nearly as uninformed as they might think.

Technology folks are remarkably gifted at delivering information with disturbing confidence. Sometimes they get it wrong.

You trust your tech team to understand your company’s needs and deliver the right solutions. The reality is there is a huge gap between strategic leadership and the technology team who can bring vision to life. Real-world stories about this hole fill many business books.

Here are 5 ways you and your technology folks can accomplish more together.

1. Commit to creating a collaborative partnership.

A successful technology team isn’t built on a transactional relationship. Both in-house and outsourced technology people are valuable partners in strategy and execution. Give them a seat at the table. Encourage them to think, communicate, and contribute like businesspeople. They might surprise you.

2. Technology folks love the challenge of a new tool.

The lure of a new piece of software or app can lead to premature solutions.

I speak from way too many first-hand experiences. What begins as “this won’t take long” or “this is just what we need” quickly becomes a time and money black hole. How many unused pieces of software do you have?

3. Ask your tech team “How do you know this will meet our needs?.

This is a valuable exercise because ---

  • everyone starts with a shared understanding of the overall purpose
  • it requires tech folks to describe in plain business-speak --- not technical jargon – their understanding of both the problem and the solution
  • restating the business need encourages strategic focus
  • simply saying words out loud creates clarity and more than a few “Oh, wait…” moments
  • you can spot flaws in the solution before you make a wasteful investment
  • you discover how your team thinks and can create valuable learning opportunities

  • 4. Ask your tech team to walk you through the steps they will take to reach the right result.

    Tech folks are almost -- without fail -- overly optimistic about their ability to deliver. I once had a developer tell me he could rewrite an entire piece of software in a day.

    Not even the other developers on the team believed that one.

    Ask them for a written plan.

    We talked with an outside company about a server upgrade project.  This would involve downtime as well as our resources to verify that everything was working correctly. When I asked for the project plan, they were quick to tell me it wouldn’t take long. They didn’t have a plan.  

    If they can’t explain each step in simple non-tech words, then ask them to do it again. Learning takes time.

    5. What other tools in your box can solve this problem?

    A client once told me that most vendors he talked with didn’t understand integration. Because we thought like integrators, not tool sellers, we were invited to sit at the decision-making table every time.

    Adding more technology isn’t always the right solution. Often the answer is simply looking at what you already have in a different way.

    Building the right collaborative relationship takes time and patience – and it’s worth the investment.

    . . .

    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships.

    She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

    Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need.

    As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

    Tags: Technology Strategy

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