June 11, 2020

Technical Decisions & Business Acumen: How speaking both languages can drive business value

In technology-related projects or companies, many business decisions affect how technology is implemented. Conversely, many technical decisions affect the business’s bottom line. In both cases, the business should be the decision maker, not the technical team. Scary right?

There are so many opportunities for missteps when developing software. I’m convinced that a lot of seriously detrimental decisions are made because the decision-makers don’t have a complete understanding of the technical ramifications of the decision. The information exists, but leaders don’t always seek it out. Or, perhaps they do seek it out, but the technical team can’t translate the technical concepts to something that the business cares about. So, non-technical leaders are left to make their decisions with less-than-sufficient, confused or skewed technical understanding. In those cases, with only the business-related pros and cons in hand, we make our decisions as the technical team weeps on its keyboards.

After long, the development team inevitably and silently proclaims the business side of the house as unqualified or incompetent to make technical decisions. So, with only the technical pros and cons in hand, the development team begins making those decisions on the business’s behalf.

Obviously, neither scenario is healthy. But I see this happening time and time again, especially in software development projects. We repeat history even having knowledge of it.

One side of the house or the other needs to begin speaking both languages. I believe the technical team is better poised to take on this challenge. Today’s development teams need to learn to be bi-lingual. They need to command both technical and business languages. The dev team is NOT the decision maker when it comes to things that will affect the business’s bottom-line. Instead, the technical people need to become coaches and advisors to the business so that the best decisions can be made for the good of the business, either in the short term or the long term.

When I coach non-technical leaders who find themselves at the helm of a very technical ship, I work with them to, first, establish clear expectations on roles and responsibilities, especially in this realm of decision making. I encourage them to take back control of their products but maintain very open lines of communication between business and technical teams. Then, it’s important that business people slow down decision making processes just long enough to seek advice from the massively knowledgeable tech team to get a full picture of the problem that needs to be solved. Leaders should not stop probing and listening until they have heard how technical decisions map to some effect on revenue of cost.

If the technical team can begin speaking the language of the business, and the business can listen and demand true understanding, I believe that team could succeed in creating well-built and profitable technical solutions.

Curious as to how Acklen Avenue uses business acumen to drive technical decisions? Let’s chat!