An effective Internal Communication Plan is an essential tool to achieve your IT Governance goals. IT Governance teams need support from a wide variety of stakeholders and individuals across their organizations in order to deliver their goals and objectives. Modern organizations are diverse, distributed, and often “flat”, meaning key messages must be distributed widely and frequently. IT Governance is in the business of influencing the culture and behaviour of such organizations. Long gone are the days of centralized “command and control” governance styles, what’s needed now is to bring everyone along on the journey to deliver desired outcomes. In order to do this, you need an effective communication strategy and plan to hit your IT Governance goals. The ITAM Review’s AJ Witt explains the why and the how of internal communications in ITAM.
IT Governance can be a tough subject to engage others with. It can be perceived as bureaucracy, red tape, and getting in the way of doing business. Successful governance strategies must therefore work to minimize this perception. The best way to do this is to ensure your governance strategy is closely aligned with business strategy. For example, if your business is focused on cost management, communicate how your programs, policies, and procedures directly contribute to that organizational goal.
When working in a modern organization it’s not enough to have a mandate from your manager, or even from within the leadership team. Your messaging needs to be reinforced regularly in order to receive focus amongst the myriad other things dynamic businesses are trying to deliver. For example, if you’ve decided to focus on improving the sustainability of your IT activities, engaging your Chief Sustainability Officer as your champion and having them communicate on your behalf will ensure that your program is noticed.
In larger organizations you may also need to engage with corporate internal communications. Internal communications teams will have access to the tools and platforms you need to deliver your communication plan, and also have valuable insights into your audience. Furthermore, if you’re making changes which directly affect employees you should also engage with HR to ensure that there is no impact on employee relations.
Culturally, we seem to be in a period of growing mistrust of authority figures. This also applies to expert voices and viewpoints. Top-down centralized control is probably at its nadir in modern organizations. If people are less willing to do what they’re told, how can you get them to change their behaviour?
The answer is to align what you’re doing with their motivations and give them a compelling reason to either follow the rules or make behavioural changes. The “why?” of doing something is very closely aligned with “What’s in it for me?” and your communication plan should reflect this. Make what you’re doing is relatable to individual goals and aspirations. For example, if you’re communicating an extension to a hardware refresh cycle, which means an employee doesn’t get a new laptop this year, explain that cutting costs helps protect jobs, wages, and benefits.
In order to change behaviour in pursuit of a common purpose your employees must feel that “we’re all in it together.” This means that your communications plan should include all employees and demonstrate how others are making progress towards your governance goals. Furthermore, if you’re asking people to make changes, everyone should be working towards that. Making exceptions, particularly for managers and leaders, will severely impact the grassroots adoption of your governance strategy, to the point that it may well fail.
It’s easy for governance teams to focus on metrics, KPIs, and deliverables. Whilst these are important to demonstrate progress to your managers and leaders – they have limited appeal for other stakeholders and employees. Find the stories behind those recent improvements and communicate them. Champion individuals and give them credit for the change they made which contributed to that improvement. Peer role models are powerful allies in delivering a change program and your communications plan must reflect that. For example, if an individual within your IT Ops team has found a way to improve the build time for a new laptop – share that in your newsletter rather than the associated KPI which just shows a 10% improvement this month.
Our attention spans are shorter than ever, so messages should be concise and delivered in a language and format the audience can understand. The delivery channel is also important. For example, you might use a Teams or a Slack message, a blog post, or even perhaps audio or video to deliver your messages. Bear in mind that everyone has their own communication style which feeds into their preferred channels, so you should communicate via as many channels as possible to maximise the chance of your messages being heard.
Fast-paced organizations demand that we communicate regularly and effectively. It’s challenging to get enough focus on an improvement program, particularly if that program is slow to deliver results. The same applies to your communications strategy. Use metrics and analytics built into common messaging tools such as HubSpot or Mailchimp to gauge reaction to your communications. How many people opened the email? How many people visited your blog? How many listens did your podcast receive? These metrics enable you to tune your messaging to make optimal impact.
Effective internal communication can be the difference between an IT Governance program which is supported by the majority of your colleagues and one which withers on the vine due to a lack of compliance. Make your communication effective by engaging with senior leaders, using multiple channels for your messages, and ensuring that they’re personal and relevant to your audience.