The way in which you communicate sets the tone for what people think about you. Not so much what you say, but how you say it. This is the essence of a brand, creating the perceptions held about organisations and individuals by their customers and clients.

In many ways the world of Corporate IT is trying to reposition itself as a centre for innovation, a hub of cutting-edge digital activity. And yet the ways in which many IT teams still represent themselves to their customers is at serious odds with that new brand positioning.

A decade or so ago, in an aim to professionalise the way in which IT was regarded by organisations, we saw the rise of the Service Level Agreement. Relationships within organisations between technologists and their customers would become governed by a pseudo-legalese that (to my mind) made IT departments look like they were serious and grown up.

The problem with the legacy of service level agreement culture is that in many ways its restrictive, impersonal language now reinforces the perception of IT as “the computer says No” organisation. If you are serious about positioning yourselves as agents of change, as people who disrupt, as “the new”, it’s time to ditch the SLAs.

Writing things in simpler, clearer language isn’t synonymous with being unprofessional: as internal communications expert Martin Smith put it recently “If you want to improve your communication, try Plain English”. But it’s not just about keeping your messages clear – if you are wanting to make yourself appear to be fit to deliver digital services within your business, you need to not look like you’ve just stepped out of a solicitors’ office of the 1930s.

Tony Phillips and I are speaking today at the 2015 CIO Summit on Branding the CIO. You can find out more here.

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