Blog Post

Bridging the IT-business comms gap comes down to this one word: Ask

The SRE Report 2024 uncovered many ongoing misalignments between practitioners and management. Read on to find out how you can align your team and bridge the gap in your IT organization.

A highlight of the SRE Report is the insightful analysis based on the organizational ranks of respondents. The 2023 installment exposed significant misalignment between practitioners and management in several key areas, including the benefits of AIOps, the challenge of tool sprawl, and attitudes towards blamelessness. While the 2024 SRE Report showed a rare consensus on the importance of monitoring external endpoints, it uncovered yet more ongoing differences.

Let’s dive in.  

AI’s impact: Depends on who you ask

The survey tackled a hot topic with a crucial question: “What personal impact will AI have on your work or role within the next two years?” Notably, 53% of respondents said AI will “make my work easier,” while only 4% feared AI would replace them.  

However, this optimism was not uniform across ranks. In a classic example of rank dissension, the perceived impact of AI over the next two years varied significantly by organizational level.

Higher management increasingly believed that AI would simplify their tasks (43%) and expressed less uncertainty about its impact (10%). In contrast, individual contributors were less convinced of AI's benefits (26%) and more uncertain about its effects (18%). This disparity suggests that higher-ranking officials may be more attuned to the strategic advantages of AI, whereas individual contributors might focus more on immediate job-related concerns and uncertainties.  

Individual pride vs organizational efficiency

The survey asked, “Being which of these is most important to you?” allowing respondents to choose from taking pride in their work, being efficient, capable, respected, liked, feared, or a subject matter expert.  

A significant majority, 63%, said taking pride in their work was most important, followed by efficiency at 57%. Unfortunately, the importance placed on these values declined as the organizational rank of respondents increased.

This trend reveals a potential disconnect in workplace values between leadership and other staff levels. As leaders increasingly prioritize broader organizational goals, they may overlook the personal values that motivate their teams, which could impact overall job satisfaction and productivity.  

Bridging the IT-business communications gap

The SRE Report reveals critical gaps in understanding and communication within organizations, which, if left unaddressed, could diminish effectiveness and morale. To bridge these gaps, we can follow a clear series of steps, and it all starts with one word: ask.  

Step 1: Ask

In environments where business and technology teams operate in separate silos, a substantial disconnect often emerges, potentially jeopardizing the success of the product. To bridge this gap, the first step is rooted in clear communication, ensuring that all parties fully understand each other's goals, limitations, and progress.

Start by posing a fundamental question to both sides: “Does this thing/project have value?” But don't stop at a simple yes or no. Delve deeper to explore different dimensions of value:

  1. Value to the Individual: How does this project benefit each team member personally? Does it provide a learning opportunity, enhance their skills, or align with their career goals?
  2. Value to the Team: What does the team gain from this project? Consider aspects like improved collaboration, enhanced capabilities, or greater cohesion.
  3. Value to the Business: From a broader perspective, how does the project contribute to the organization's goals? Look for impacts on revenue, customer satisfaction, and market position.

Step 2: Measure

Once you've established what value means on different levels, the next step is to measure the alignment of these perceptions. Develop a method to track how often project goals are perceived as beneficial across these three categories compared to instances where they are not. This metric can be a powerful indicator of internal alignment and the overall health of your project communication strategies.

By systematically measuring these aspects, you can pinpoint where misalignments occur and take informed steps to address them, enhancing collaboration and the success of initiatives across departments.

Step 3: Learn

It's often those on the front lines—such as salespeople interacting directly with clients—who first detect significant shifts in the market or changes in consumer demands. So, take the time to learn from them. Consider the following actions:

  • Cross-functional Teams: Forming teams that include members from both business and technology sectors naturally enhances collaboration.
  • Consistent Communication: Holding regular meetings, providing status updates, and conducting feedback sessions ensure that all team members stay informed and on the same page.
  • Unified Terminology: Developing a shared vocabulary understandable to both business and tech teams helps avoid confusion and ensures clear communication, steering clear of technical jargon that may exclude some members.

Promoting a bottom-up approach to innovation and problem-solving allows every employee to contribute ideas to improve the company, fostering a sense of ownership and alignment across ranks.

Step 4: Improve

Managers can implement targeted improvements with insights gained from asking, measuring, and learning. These enhancements might involve adjusting project roles, redefining goals, or modifying workflows to align with team capabilities and business requirements. Continuous improvement should focus on streamlining processes and enhancing collaboration, ensuring each team member can contribute effectively to the project’s success.

Step 5: Don't obsess about the business outcome

An unbalanced emphasis on business outcomes can obscure the route to achieving those results. It’s the development of capabilities that paves the way to business success, as these are the true enablers of desirable outcomes. Building a culture solely centered on performance might not be the healthiest or most enduring approach to drive results. Shifting the focus toward fostering a culture of growth could prove more effective.

According to Harvard Business Review, this type of culture hinges on the following key components:

  • Leadership vulnerability: Leaders model openness and own their mistakes, creating a safe space for others.
  • Continuous learning: Encourage curiosity and openness over judgment, promoting continuous learning.
  • Managed experiments: Support manageable trials of new behaviors to overcome change resistance.
  • Ongoing feedback: Foster a culture where regular, constructive feedback is exchanged to aid mutual growth.

Wrapping it up

How significant are organizational perception gaps? Misalignment between employees and business leaders isn’t a new issue. And let’s be clear, there will be times when there is no alignment – and that's ok. However, the rank dissensions highlighted in the SRE Report emphasize the need for tailored communication strategies within organizations to address these varied perceptions and expectations. This doesn't mean reinventing the wheel; instead, it involves implementing these simple, powerful initiatives: ask, measure, learn, improve, and don’t obsess about the business outcome. Outcomes are the result of something. Work on that something.  

Read the 2024 SRE Report today (no registration required) 

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