3 ways to improve communications skills among your IT team

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Going faster is the big thing in business and IT. That’s not a surprise for startups, but what about for established companies that want to keep up with the industry? What do the rest of us need to do in order to stay fresh?

It’s easy to overlook, but communication and speed are crucially connected. In my experience, part of becoming more agile is predicated on having a stronger relationship with your business users. If you can do that, and if you can understand their business and challenges to a finer level of detail, I can almost guarantee that you will do things faster and more productively. Quite simply, the outcome will be better for them because you’re going to understand more about what they’re trying to accomplish and what their pain points are.

Here are a few things I tell my direct reports about improving their communication skills:

1. Reach out to the business to learn about what they need. Don’t wait for an invitation. For example, spend a day building a relationship with someone and understanding how they use the technology you support.

2. When you meet with your business partners, do a lot of listening. Understand what their pain points are.

3. Set realistic expectations. If you commit to doing something, make sure you do it. I think IT people have a tendency to talk about how great technology is, but when it comes to the day-to-day business action part we tend to sometimes be a little weak.

All of the knowledge sharing that results from good communication really helps build the level of understanding – and ultimately allows you to do things quicker.


Cynthia Stoddard is the Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer (CIO) at NetApp. In her role as CIO, she is responsible for providing a long-term technology vision that supports and is aligned with the company’s strategies and goals, business plans, operating requirements, and overall efficiencies. She provides leadership to the Global IT organization to enable delivery of worldwide business solutions and infrastructure that support the company’s growth. Additionally, she acts as the primary advocate of NetApp to external markets to promote further awareness of the NetApp on NetApp initiative.

As senior vice president and chief information officer of Adobe, Cynthia Stoddard oversees Adobe’s global Information Technology team. In her leadership role, Cynthia spearheads a global strategy for delivering services that form the mission-critical backbone for the company.