Every growing company has to embrace technology at some point, even in the most traditional industries. Unless high tech is at the core of your firm's business model, managing the divide between tech and non-tech teams is crucial.
To help you collaborate with tech teams, we asked CEOs and business professionals for their best insights on the challenges in cooperation with the tech teams at non-tech companies. From a lack of common vocabulary to setting realistic expectations, there are many obstacles to efficient collaboration with tech teams at companies in non-tech industries.
Here are seven challenges when collaborating with tech teams at a non-tech company:
Initial Underdeveloped Relationships
Establishing Lines of Communication
Having Divergent Priorities
Lack of a Common Vocabulary
Aligning Both Teams Strengths
Creates Spaces for Education
Setting Realistic Expectations
1. Initial Underdeveloped Relationships
Getting the tech team to engage with the non-tech groups takes a concerted effort by department managers. When departments are situated apart from each other, much of the team building remains within that unit. When collaboration between teams is necessary, it may feel forced and uncomfortable, making open communication difficult. Getting the teams to engage takes creative solutions. An initiative that has worked for us at our company is incorporating employee fun facts and photos into our weekly team meetings. We prioritize time during the beginning of each weekly meeting to share a team member's personal story of choice or a fun/unique fact about them. This activity allows us all to connect, helps us get to know each other, and starts each meeting off on a fun and interactive note. Additionally, through the exercise, communication between employees is established, reinforcing stronger connections and ultimately more frequent collaboration.
2. Establishing Lines of Communication
Leaders of non-tech companies may think that the tech team will automatically take care of everything tech-related, but it is up to the company leader to communicate his or her needs and vision. Even if you’re leading a company and you don't have an extensive background in tech, you should still be willing to come up with basic ideas of any business desires involving technology.
Chris Caouette, Gorilla Bow
3. Having Divergent Priorities
You need a landing page updated. Your tech team needs to rebuff security certificates. Depending on your tech knowledge and role, it may feel imperative that a task be completed to improve click-through rates or another metric. Why isn’t your tech team worried about your task? Clashing priorities can be frustrating, but it is important to have an open line of communication and, above all else, trust your tech team to prioritize what is most important.
Desiree Cunningham, Markitors
4. Lack of a Common Vocabulary
The biggest challenge is the lack of vocabulary knowledge. If your tech team is talking about programs and languages that you are not familiar with, it makes it really hard to collaborate with other parts of the team. I suggest putting everyone who does not have the basics down to go through the basics of programming, coding, and whatever else they might be working on. Nothing too serious, but make sure everyone is familiar with the terminology.
Zoe Waters, Necessary Behavior
5. Aligning Both Teams Strengths
Getting the tech and non-tech teams to realize each team's goal(s) supports the other's is challenging. With each group focusing on its own day-to-day challenges, it can take a concerted effort to reinforce cooperative values. Leveraging each team's strengths shows how the tech team and the non-tech teams support their goals and each department’s goals and how they align with the company mission. This open communication fosters the willingness to collaborate.
Tyler Forte, Felix Homes
6. Creating Spaces for Education
When everyone in your business isn't up-to-date on the latest tech, it may be rather difficult to communicate with your tech team if that isn't your company's industry. However, one of the greatest challenges is simply understanding the language. Certain terms, descriptions, and processes may seem basic to the members of your tech team. Yet, for other employees, they may need to type a few phrases into Google to figure out what's going on. If this is the case, a good idea is to include a short glossary in your SOPs for every department. After all, the administrative team may not be up-to-date on hearing about ROI, CPC, and more from the marketing team, either.
Greg Gillman, MuteSix
7. Setting Realistic Expectations
Since non-tech company leaders may not be as well-versed in technology as the tech team would be, they may not always realize how long certain technological processes will take. For example, if the company leader decides that they want to create an electronic booklet for everyone attending a board meeting, he or she needs to allow plenty of time for the tech team to put this together. Just because tech teams know about technology, it doesn’t mean they can always produce technological results overnight. Non-tech company leaders need to give plenty of notice to tech teams regarding technological ideas for the company.
Ben Teicher, Healthy Directions
Finding equilibrium in integrating tech and non-tech teams
In many companies, the divide between the developers and other teams is not actively managed. In turn, the cross-functional collaboration becomes a byproduct of casual, project-related interactions.
And it doesn't have to be like that! Addressing all the discussed challanges can deliver tremendous change. Also, listening to each other and being kind can foster cooperation and allow one to learn the perspective of the other side.
Finally, getting involved and understanding the arguments and goals of both sides can also be a great exercise in entrepreneurship. Quite often, a bit of creativity can enable collaboration models that are a win-win. For instance, an Accounting Director might benefit from automation without programming skills, and the Database Developer can influence data capturing processes to save time on data cleaning. It pays off to be proactive in improving collaboration with the tech teams.
This article was written in collaboration with Terkel.