Communication between IT and non-IT workers in a state of crisis

Results from the CIO Executive Council’s ‘Power of Effective IT Communication’ benchmark survey indicate that IT teams lack the talent to communicate. This results in a state of crisis between IT and non-IT employees, which could prove disastrous in this era of unparalleled digital disruption.

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Additionally, this time investment has historically trended upward. Forty-five percent of IT leaders report spending more time today on communication activities than they have in the past twelve to eighteen months — down ten points from 2014, but still representing roughly half of IT leaders (see Figure 4). Two out of five (41 percent) also say that they are keeping an even keel, with no significant changes in the amount of time they invest.

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Figure 4: Nearly half of IT leaders are investing more time into communication. (Click for a larger image.)


Despite these good intentions, however, IT leaders have a poor self-assessment when it comes to rating their IT organization’s current effectiveness in achieving the goals identified in Figure 2. No more than 15 percent of IT leaders consider their IT organizations highly effective for any given goal (see Figure 5). Still, a majority of IT leaders claimed some measure of effectiveness in key disciplines such as building trust and credibility (71 percent state they are either ‘highly effective’ or ‘effective’); increasing IT-business partnering and collaboration (64 percent); and attracting internal and external talent to the IT organization (62 percent).

The most challenging goal for IT leaders was building IT’s brand as an innovator for the business. Three out of five IT leaders (59 percent) consider themselves partially or entirely ineffective, up from 48 percent in 2014. The overall picture is one of modest successes, but no big wins. Only 60 percent of IT leaders counted themselves effective, on average, in achieving any of the goals.

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Figure 5: IT Leaders Report Gains In Damage Control, Building Trust. (Click for a larger image.)


Barriers to building an effective communication process

Despite what may seem to be limited success in specific communication goals, what truly matters is how IT leaders perceive their relationship with non-IT employees. This general perception is larger than the sum of all ancillary communication goals. It is a reflection of how IT is valued — or not valued — in spite of increased time investment in communication and modest successes by IT leaders.

This overall picture is a bit starker than previous data might suggest. While we already know that four out of five IT leaders cite building trust and credibility as a top-priority goal, as noted earlier only 4 percent are actually highly satisfied with the effectiveness of IT’s internal communication with the business (see Figure 6). A full 44 percent expressed some measure of dissatisfaction.

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Figure 6: Four Percent of IT Leaders Highly Satisfied With Internal Communication. (Click for a larger image.)


When asked to gauge their own effectiveness at communicating outside of the business — by writing an article in a periodical to build awareness and attract talent, for example, or by hitting the IT event speaking circuit — the proportion of satisfied IT leaders drops sharply to two out of five (see Figure 7).

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Figure 7: Nearly Two-Thirds of IT Leaders Dissatisfied With External Communication. (Click for a larger image.)


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