Why you need to be bilingual in business and technology

By Warren Tomlin

Mobile has indisputably changed the world and how we do business. It has left an indelible mark on both how consumers interact with brands and how employees interact with their companies through digital technology.

Since smartphones have infiltrated the business world, the transformation has been profound. Mobile is integrated into our daily work on many levels, improving employee productivity and mobility. However, the changes brought about by mobile are also disrupting how businesses function. This is a good thing.

Digital has demanded the integration of disparate parts of an organization to be closer than ever before. The question is, how can business and technology leaders work together on shared objectives if they’ve been speaking different languages? We have to become bilingual: We have to learn to speak the two languages of business and tech.

Conflict and collaboration

In organizations today, some employees are speaking the language of technology and others are speaking the language of business. Modern leaders need to learn how to speak both.

Let’s take a look at the two languages and a little history:

  • The language of technology
    This language is what you hear from your chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO) and other IT leaders. The vocabulary includes words like security, scalability, integration and so on. These people are closely watching the technologies that are revolutionizing business — mobile solutions, cloud computing, the IoT and many more — and they will be tasked with keeping their companies up to speed.
  • The language of business
    This language is the one spoken by the chief executive officer (CEO), chief marketing officer (CMO) and line-of-business leaders. The language of business has a vocabulary of acquisition, retention and return on investment. These employees are working with numbers and concerned about the growth and sustainability of the business — they need tools and applications that work quickly and effectively.

In the past, these two “sides” of a company were separate. IT was often tasked with problem-solving for the business. Over time, however, business leaders have brought greater demands to their CIOs and CTOs. This too is a good thing.

Increased adoption of smartphones for work and personal use has made every user an “expert” with strong opinions about mobile technology. Consumer grade enterprise experiences matter.

Consumers often have access to better apps than enterprise users, and this has caused their demands and impatience to grow. As a result, in some ways CIOs and CTOs are facing an existential crisis: On the one hand, they’ve traditionally been the trusted technology service providers for their organizations, but on the other, they feel like they are losing control as business demands grow and employees seek third-party apps to solve their business challenges. The business is having a stronger voice, which is another good thing.

In the future, we will speak both languages

Companies can no longer consider business and technology in isolation if they want to win. To move into the future, leaders need to learn to speak both languages and break down the barriers between the business and technology sides of a company. Technology has to not just understand business concerns but also own the outcome and tie their objectives to the company’s larger aims; businesses need to understand how technology is unlocking business strategy.

According to CIOs in the Global C-suite Study, mobile technology is expected to be a top area of continuing growth. If you’re in the mobile space today, you need to be bilingual.

Mobile is a matchmaker

Though mobile and other digital technologies have caused a disruptive shift for businesses in the 21st century, there’s also an opportunity for mobile to be a matchmaker. After all, mobile is something people from both sides of the company are familiar with from personal use. It is the hub of a successful digital strategy. Mobile enables collaboration and can be an avenue for forming stronger partnerships between the business and technology sides of a company.

Is your mobile strategy bilingual? Does it speak the language of business and the language of technology? It needs to. And that, of course, will be a good thing.

Written By

Warren Tomlin

IBM Vice President

Warren Tomlin is an IBM Vice President and Partner with more than 20 years of experience in strategy, innovation, product development and online marketing. Recognized as one of Marketing magazine’s 100 Thought Leaders, Warren is our Global Mobile Leader. He is also an IBM…

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