If you want the executives’ ears, you need to speak their language  Every now and then I get a very pointed reminder that technology experts and business managers are not really on the same wavelength.  For instance, in my very early days as a management consultant I worked with a client who has since made quite a name for himself as one of the principals of a venture capital firm. My role was to evaluate a new initial public offering (IPO) on the local stock exchange. This was a technical company with a unique product. Being a "techie" and not terribly business savvy I proceeded to evaluate the feeds and speeds of the new offering. My client kept sending the evaluation back to me for revision.  After about the third or fourth go-around he took me to one side and said, "John, the superintendent of brokers doesn’t give a darn about whether or not this is a good technical idea. He wants to know whether or not this stock should be listed and if the investors can believe that this start-up can actually capture market share." That lesson landed hard and I remember it clearly to this day. That was my epiphany. Some excellent ideas, crafted with the best of intentions and destined to benefit the organization, languish because the business folks just do not get the message. Why does it happen? My guess, supported by many years of hard knocks and a clear view of what typically takes place in these information exchanges, is that technologists and business managers are often on different planets. Their goals, although intended to be congruent, tend to be at odds. To put it bluntly, feeds and speeds do not translate to business fundamentals nor do they achieve any level of acceptance by hard-nosed business folks. To the initiated, this is not surprising. Today’s competitive environment demands a very solid focus on business fundamentals and the realization that data, which becomes information and, in turn, becomes knowledge, is only useful if it helps the business prosper. But too often the concept that information technology must be strategically aligned with the business seems to get lost in the technical weeds when the messenger arrives from the data centre with the latest and greatest. All of the truly successful business initiatives stress again and again that it is absolutely fundamental for the support system providers to understand the business and be prepared to provide services that management can use and trust. Consider the attributes essential for successful project management or business continuity planning. The number one prerequisite is to understand the business. The concept of business risk and the requirement for sustainable business systems in the face of constantly shifting priorities and external demands requires that everyone in the mix be clear about what is at stake. The initiative must be "business-centric" and the messenger must be able to clearly articulate and discuss the relationship between the technology and the business manager’s perspective. This usually means that the technical issue must be re-crafted in business terms with the same degree of thoroughness that any astute business manager would deem basic. This tends to be a difficult transition for most technical professionals. There are resources available to make the transition less arduous, however. Visit the Ziff Davis CIO Insight website (www.cioinsight.com) to get a handle on the way executives think. Consider also reading the Harvard Business Review, and business books such as The Fifth Discipline (Peter Senge), In Search of Excellence… (Tom Peters and Robert Waterman) and Good to Great… (Jim Collins). Unfortunately the alternative is not pleasant: rapidly lose your audience’s attention and lose your own credibility in attempting to convince management of the strategic necessity for this technical solution, to the utter frustration of both parties. Technical expertise is only good enough if you are dealing with inanimate objects. Of course, that expertise is valuable but if the technologist wants to add value to the organization and be taken seriously, the only way to "raise the bar" is to become adroit at delivering the technical message in business terms. Every proposal must be crafted as a "value proposition" that clearly demonstrates how it will impact the bottom line. Consider that the technology area of the business is a business unit like any other, which delivers services against a service level agreement. At the end of the day this business unit must demonstrate consistency, competence, and it must add black ink to the bottom line. It is no longer acceptable to deliver a technical solution without the supporting business model, and evidence that choosing to proceed is justified and that moving ahead relates to business best practices. John C. Glover operates MayneStay Consulting Group Ltd., with more than 25 years of experience advising companies on IT, telecom and information security issues. Contact him by email: email@example.com.