Tech 100: ‘We need to speak in colleagues’ language, not teach them to speak in ours’

Written by Claudette Jones on 24 February 2017 in Comment

Claudette Jones, new CIO of University of the West of Scotland, on the kind of leaders needed to compete in a digital world

Claudette Jones, CIO, University of the West of Scotland - Image credit: City of Edinburgh Council

At a recent digital conference one of the speakers said: “It’s the CIO’s job to make sure the board understand technology.” I could not disagree more.

I believe it’s the CIO’s job to understand the business and ensure that other board members don’t need to understand the technology, and this is even more important in how we engage with our customers.

When surveying customers about what they wanted from their IT department, we were told, “Just make it simple”, and yet we often do not.


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We send out complicated, jargon-laden communications telling them what they can’t do rather than what they can in terms that they understand.

 I’m always disappointed to hear colleagues talk about their issues in IT terms as it means we have explained something to them in that way.

For example: “I can’t share information with that person as they are on a different network to me”.

And why do we tell colleagues we’ve rolled out VOIP phones and not that we’ve given them phones where they can access their calls from any location in order to make it easier for our customers to engage with us.

We need to speak in their language, not teach them to speak in ours.

At the board level CIO’s are more valuable if we focus on using our talents in understanding how the business works, helping with systematic thinking, data-driven decisions and using our proven project management and other professional methodologies to apply to business problems.

Then and only if there is a technical solution to the problem do we get into that space.

That way we stay relevant and recognised as business leaders to our senior colleagues – the kind of leader that is needed to compete in the digital arena and not just a techie.

Claudette Jones is the new CIO of University of the West of Scotland

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