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The Importance of Management Communications in the IT Field

Abstract

Present-day executives grapple with information overload. Fortunately, technology savvy  professionals are able to devise ways and put certain communications skills to use so that important messages are conveyed not just in timely fashion but in a clear manner.  Indeed, whether it is in the IT profession or in other fields, at no other time has corporate communications been more essential in facilitating an organization’s smooth functioning, enhancing relations with targeted publics, and furthering organizational goals and ensuring success than today. Most companies nowadays may be seen using both formal and informal means of gaining and providing feedback which are necessary to keep abreast with  trends, issues and developments as they arise.

Management communications and processes play a decisive role in present-day organizations. In the information technology (IT) profession, it is very crucial. An actual interview with an IT professional revealed that about 75 percent of a work day is devoted to writing  communications ranging from evaluations, policy, to general matters, and of these, general communication and feedback coursed to senior management are deemed most important to undertaking their job successfully (N. Dunscomb, personal communication, June 22, 2008).

As key decision-makers whose main concern may have a profound impact on an organization, IT

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heads are  called upon to ensure that their messages are conveyed in a timely and clear manner in order to achieve the desired results that can pave the way towards organizational success.  As such, IT specialists or chief information officers take time to prepare for both written and oral discourses, and veer away from bad habits or tendencies that will only negate their communicative efforts.

 Before issuing written communications, a chief information officer said, “I research the Internet and read available e-books on the subject” (N. Dunscomb, personal communication, June 22, 2008).

Indeed, today’s tech-savvy managers realize that “effective leaders communicate strategically, translating important business objectives into terms through which employees readily understand ‘what’s in it for me?’… In response, employees are engaged, align their actions accordingly and work towards propelling an organisation to success” (Facey, 2002, para. 2).  Very often, though, messages which are dispersed across all levels of the organizational structure connote various meanings for different people.

Taking into consideration the pitfall  of miscommunication, a chief information officer emphasized the importance of collaborating with staff and colleagues to obtain ample information necessary to carry out tasks and functions. “I often consult with my staff or outside of my staff to get opinion and facts… it gives a wider perspective and more informed presentation” (N. Dunscomb, personal communication, June 22, 2008).

  In most instances, face-to-face communication is still very much favored even with modern messaging systems and technology like e-mail, which should not be “the be-all and end-all” (LoCicero, 2007, p. 352)  in communicating messages at work. In essence, today’s corporate communicators need to commit themselves “to plan well, to think big, and to embrace technology” (LoCicero, 2007, p. 352) but not to the extent of being overdependent on the latter.

Corporate communications managers must actually concentrate beyond having high-tech tools and programs at their disposal.  They  “must have not only a firm grasp of rapidly evolving technologies but also an understanding of prevalent cultural issues, political trends, and shifting demographics, to keep themselves in tune with companies’ diverse constituencies” (Argenti, 2002, p. 51).  In so doing, equipped with good communication skills, they help retain or attract, rather than thwart, business.

On the whole, the brunt of  “responsibility for the communication process must rest with management at all levels across the organization” (Facey, 2002, para. 4).  What may seem like a fairly simple task of issuing a written instruction, though, may sometimes turns out intricate and complex.  This is what communications experts refer to as `ambiguous communication’ which may either be blatant or subtle.

“In blatant ambiguity the message is usually just badly constructed rather than deceitful. Subtle ambiguity happens when there are multiple meanings for a message, but the receiver is unaware of that fact, and is actually being deceived to some degree…  the subtle and underlying meanings or ambiguity typically reside in the sender’s intentions, rather than in the actual “ostensive” message, which is usually misleading or unclear; subtle ambiguity works as a strategy most successfully when the sender assumes the receiver lacks insider knowledge” (LaDuc, 2007, para. 6).

IT specialists, for their part, “produce charts, graphs and written slides” (N. Dunscomb, personal communication, June 22, 2008) which must coalesce with main content and “capture the audience’s attention in a most impressive way, and allow them to comprehend and logically follow the information being presented” (LoCicero, 2007, p. 326).

Facey (2002, para. 11) likewise listed in “Effective Communication: Skills that Make Leaders Stand Out from the Crowd” some important qualities a leader must utilize to flourish in the information era, notably:  presentation skills; asking effective questions; listening skills; facilitation and problem solving; conducting high impact conversations; coaching and mentoring skills (one-on-one communication).

Finally, firms will also do well to have a communications audit, “an objective report on the internal communication of an organization… which can lead to improved morale and more successful motivation within the organization” (Hamilton, 1987, p. 3).   A consultative  type of leadership is aligned with this communication function or end-result, something that many of today’s IT professional are keenly working on.

References

Argenti, P. (2002). Corporate Communication. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Facey, J. (2002). Effective communication: skills that make leaders stand out from the crowd. CEO Forum Group. Retrieved June 22, 2008, from http://www.ceoforum.com.au/article-detail.cfm?cid=6128&t=/Jo-Anne-Facey–Mercer-Human-Resource-Consulting/Effective-communication-skills-that-make-leaders-stand-out-from-the-crowd/

Hamilton, S. (1987). A communication audit handbook: Helping organizations communicate. New York: Longman.

LaDuc, L. (2007, May). Strategic and Ambiguous Communication and Argument. Business

Communications: University of Connecticut.

LoCicero, J. (2007). Business communication – deliver your message with clarity and efficiency.  Massachusetts: F+W Publications, Inc.

Appendix

Interviewee name:       Nell Dunscomb

Position              :        CIO (Chief Information Officer, US Naval Hospital Yokosuka Japan)

Q:  About what percentage of your work day do you spend writing?

A:   75%, consisting of:

  • Evaluations
  • Policy
  • General communication

 Q: What kinds of written materials/documents are you responsible for producing? (Get specific names of reports, types, etc., and get brief descriptions if possible.)

A:

  • Weekly network availability reports
  • Financial reports
  • Network vulnerability reports

 Q: Which kinds of writing are most important to doing your job successfully? Which are most important for you to gain visibility in the company? Which are most needed if you are to gain advancement in the organization? Why? (Explain).

A:

  • General communication and feeback to senior management
  • Policy writing give me the most gains because it shows leadership
  • Policy, because it shows your experience in governing and carrying out you responsibility

Q:  What is the hardest writing task you have to perform on the job? Why is it the hardest?

A:  Honest evaluations of my staff. Sometimes they are not always positive

Q:  What types of communication are most critical for success in your position?

A:   Weekly face to face communication with my division heads

  • E-mail
  • Weekly command communications
  • Bi-weekly communication with my commanding officer

Q: What do you consider to be your strongest writing skills? What communication skills make you most effective? What are your weak areas, if any?  What if anything, are you missing in the way of writing skills that would enable you to be more successful in this job?

A:

  • My ability to be very detailed in the technical arena
  • Weakness, writing just to fill up the pages, I’m a very focused writer.

 Q:  How do you prepare for writing assignments?  Are there any special techniques you have that work especially well?  What, if any, are your bad writing habits — habits you’d like to get rid of?

A:   I research the internet and read available e-books on the subject. In terms of bad writing habits, I have none so far.

 Q:  How do you prepare for speaking assignments? What kinds of presentations are you obliged to give? Do you lead meetings? Do you work in writing or presentation teams? 

A:

  • I research my topic and include the references in my slide show. I give senior level brief to staff.
  • Yes, I lead my CIO staff meetings
  • No, I do not work in team

 Q: How often do you need to consult with others to get writing tasks done?  How do you go about doing this? Do you collaborate with others in groups or teams to produce written materials?  Describe any benefits or problems that you have experienced with collaborative writing.

A: I often consult with my staff or outside of my staff to get opinion and facts. No, usually I do not work in teams.  In terms of benefits, it gives a wider perspective and more informed presentation. The problem is, collaboration takes time and effort to do so.

 Q:  Are page design and layout, and visual or graphical communication part of your requirements for producing talks or reports? Do you have to produce charts, figures, tables, slides, etc.?

A: Yes, page design is important, I use my company’s logo and name on every slide to ensure that people know where this is coming from.  I produce charts, graphs and written slides.

 Q:  How much email do you respond to; what rules do you have for handling email? What advice would you give about writing email messages?

A:  I only respond to the pertinent e-mail that need addressing.  Ninety percent of e-mail is informational so I just archive it for later. My advice is to write email only when it is necessary because a majority is not read.

 Q: Does your company or institution have special rules for preparing and formatting written documents or reports?

A:  There are specific guidelines to writing military doctrine and presentation.  An example is “The Navy Correspondence Manual 5216.5D”

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