Translating Technical Concepts for Business Leaders

MSIT ebook provides three tactics for IT leaders to bridge the communications gap between technology and business.

The list of companies that have leveraged information technology (IT) to disrupt the status quo goes on and on. The significance of IT within these businesses will continue to increase as more companies like AirBnB, Etsy, and Uber emerge and existing organizations begin to rely on tools like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things technology, and quantum computing.

That shift will force IT leaders to face new demands as they straddle the fence between their companies’ business and technical sides. 

Randall BerryHaving an IT leader with this unique ability to understand and communicate in the language of business and influence decision-making is a true benefit to an organization. The economic performance of businesses where chief information officers play a role in the company’s overall strategy development doubles that of organizations where CIOs are not involved, according to studies by Dell, The Economist, and Harvard Business Review.

This added responsibility is new to many in IT who were educated in and gained experience from a purely technical environment, and the inability to communicate technical concepts in a non-technical way can stand in the way of obtaining desired approvals from senior leaders. Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program published a guide to help IT leaders who find themselves in this position.

In Bridging the Communications Gap - Three Tactics to Help Information Technology Leaders Talk about Technology with Business Decision Makers, the MSIT program identifies three tools to help IT leaders take ownership of this challenge and effectively communicate in terms relevant to a more strictly business-minded audience.  

The guide outlines three concepts IT leaders should focus on when communicating with organizational leaders: 

  1. Illustrate technological possibilities and limitations
  2. Demonstrate business relevance to the company
  3. Leverage key presentation concepts and techniques

The guide also features real-world examples and advice from IT leaders who have successfully navigated this communications gap. 

"Business leaders now recognize the importance of IT, but many do not have the technical background to know the ins and outs of how the IT team works," MSIT director Randall Berry said. "They need a leader who can translate technical concepts and demonstrate how they can help propel a business forward. This guide builds on what we teach in MSIT and provides a framework for IT leaders to facilitate that conversation."

The MSIT program has educated and developed strategically sophisticated IT professionals for more than 25 years. The program offers an innovative curriculum uniquely positioned at the intersection of business management and technology.

To learn more about MSIT, or if you have specific questions about the guide or the program overall, please contact the program at

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