A Powerful Way To Improve The Business Smarts Of Tech Teams

Chief Digital Technology Officer at Tential. Getty The complaint that technology teams operate in their…

Chief Digital Technology Officer at Tential.

The complaint that technology teams operate in their “own separate world” and “know too little about business and customer needs” are older than analog. As dated as the complaint may be, it also hasn’t faded much over time, which has serious implications for tech innovation. If developers and engineers have the business understanding needed to build tech solutions that are in tune with customer needs and business strategy, their products will be more widely adopted and enthusiastically used. If technologists are not attuned to those critical factors, the tech suffers and customers won’t be customers for long.

The Impervious IT Bubble

The insular nature of tech organizations, even with growing numbers of business analysts working to close the gap, creates a chasm between business and IT teams. This gaping space makes it harder and slower to design and build products that excite users. Just the other day, I was speaking with the founder and CTO of a global med-tech firm. He joked how the soft skill he most needs his developers to learn is to speak English instead of speaking code and IT jargon. He bemoaned how poor business communication skills combined with tech-centric thinking slows down development because it requires twice as many people to deliver what the business really needs.

Is Everyone On The Right Path?

What if everyone designing and building tech-driven solutions—along with all of the business stakeholders—started and ended in the same place? What if it were a shared journey?

The focus on user experience (UX) management and design in recent decades has transformed the usability of applications and made journey mapping a cornerstone of product development excellence. Indeed, it’s the practice of journey mapping that creates a shared conversation between business owners, users, engineers and developers.

Journey mapping, like vision board creation for leadership, is a powerful alignment tool. One thought leader I had the pleasure of speaking with, who helps organizations build companywide vision boards to align objectives, said that as individuals and as leaders, we have to think about the big picture and the long-term goals. How can we achieve what we don’t understand? Like corporate vision boards that highlight unique business goals, journey mapping can help business and tech teams unite behind one grand vision.

Expanding Journey Mapping Teams

Rather than limiting the journey mapping process to business strategy and analyst teams, organizations can expand those teams and welcome in a larger group of technologists. Front and backend developers, project managers and even QA pros can all gain valuable insight from hearing customer pain points and goals firsthand. Requirements come alive when developers can see beyond tech requirements and understand why they are building a tool.

In addition, the early participation of technologists in journey mapping can increase creativity and innovation. Business teams and even UX/UI designers rarely have a comprehensive understanding of all the possibilities and limitations of technology. Expanding the team to include more of the people who work with emerging tools and innovation is good for journey mapping. The more innovators you have trailblazing the journey, the more extraordinary the destination.

Three Ways To Include Tech In Journey Mapping

While not every step of user journey mapping can include everyone, there are a few key opportunities where the mapping process can be shared to build a foundation of understanding.

1. Share The Voice Of The Customer: Some of the biggest frustrations that crop up between business and tech teams is that they are approaching the same challenge from two different perspectives. Why does the business team want it this way? Why does tech insist it has to be done that way? In journey mapping, a powerful part of the process is listening to the voice of customers and users. If both teams know and understand what customers need in their own words, that knowledge becomes the ultimate answer to “why” something is being done. Although tech teams do not typically participate in voice of the customer research, business, UX and marketing teams can and should share those insights with them. A findings presentation or easy-to-digest summary of customer perspectives can serve as a common tool for business and tech to reference when challenging decisions arise in product development.

2. Create A Visual Map: The customer journey is more than an idea exchange. It’s a path with milestones to achieve. Using a visualized map marked by specific goals, such as features, metrics and impact on customer state of mind, can help tech teams and business teams stay connected to shared goals. It’s not unusual for tech teams to start focusing narrowly on requirements while business teams turn their eye on business goals and deadlines. A shared visual map that marks all business, customer and tech milestones keeps cross-functional teams connected and communicating.

3. Meeting Mix Up, Share The Floor: To truly help gifted tech team members sharpen their business knowledge and expand their skills in strategic communication, give them chances to take the reins in cross-functional and client meetings. When business leaders complain about siloed technology teams, it is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. They overlook chances to not only bring in tech pros to listen, but to give technologists opportunities to present to and speak with leadership and clients. On the other hand, technology leaders can also cede time to other functional groups during key standup meetings that might benefit from opportunities to speak directly with their tech colleagues.

The common ground in building any product should be the customer. Giving tech teams more direct access to the customer story gives business teams and tech teams the critical shared language needed to collaboratively pursue the best outcomes for the business and its customers.


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