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Talking business technology

FEELING a little lost amid the language of IT? Does ‘e-language’ leave you less-than-confident you’re on the right track? If so, you probably need to talk to Danny Dawes.

Mr Dawes recently scored the highest mark in Australia in exams for the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) Managers Certificate, a course for IT professionals that teaches them to change the way they communicate with business managers.

In essence, certificate-holders have learned to use business terms to speak to business leaders on the most technical aspects of IT, and to demonstrate their awareness of typical business objectives.

“Because IT people tend to talk in technical terms rather than in business terms, the real cost (of managing IT systems) often isn’t followed through,” Mr Dawes said.

“You get this mishmash of conversations where the business people are saying ‘we want more orders’ and the technical people are saying ‘we need a bigger box’, instead of the mid-ground – what are the company objectives and what are the processes around that.”

The ITIL concept was started by British Telecom in the late 1980s and has continued to be refined by its owner, the British Government, Mr Dawes said.

To pass the Masters Certificate requires 120 hours of official teaching time and many more hours in personal study. Before students can sit the two final three-hour written exams, which only 25 per cent of people pass, they must have passed other tests, including role-playing.

In this test, real examples such as newspaper clippings are used as the basis for students to demonstrate their ability to analyse the IT issues a company faces and determine how the ITIL principles can be applied to improve the company’s situation.

“You’re doing it in front of people pretending to be finance directors and CEOs, and they’re saying ‘don’t tell me this IT crap, you’re supposed to be doing that’. It’s very in-your-face and puts you under a lot of pressure,” Mr Dawes said.

Business people don’t, in general, want to talk the IT talk. In accepting that, IT managers need to learn to treat their department as a business in itself so they can better understand their masters’ needs, he said.

“I think it’s breaking down the cultural differences between the typical IT tech-head and the business leaders,” Mr Dawes said.

“The business leaders have to have the ability to understand how much IT costs, be able to vary it, and be able to how to make the best use of those costs.”

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