Lost in Translation: Having Business Conversations in a Tech World

I’m back to posting after a bit of a hiatus from this blog.  Earlier this year I made the exciting move to become Chief Marketing Officer of Ciena, a global maker of the hardware and software that underpin the Internet.

Part of the process of settling into my role at Ciena is getting to know the lingo that drives the discussion in telecom and networking.  Technologies like software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and coherent modulation are heard daily around the office.

But even in our world of endless tech innovation, one thing is becoming increasingly clear in my conversations with our customers and partners: the era of the non-technical buyer is upon us.

Gone are the days when technical specifications and “how it works” diagrams were the key focus when it came to purchasing. The reason?

Today’s purchasing decision-makers are increasingly non-technical leaders driving key lines of business for their enterprise. They neither want to know nor care about how a thing works; they just want to understand how it will support their business goals.

A perfect example of this transition is with the modern day Human Resources leader, who is as likely to spend the day evaluating a new online benefits portal as dealing with “traditional” core HR activities. This shift has already made its way through the HR sector and is now upon us in telecom and spreading to industries far and wide.

Yet, how did we get here?

The Cloud Phenomenon and IT.

Perhaps no other trend has accelerated this technology-to-business shift quite like the emergence and mass adoption of “the cloud”. The cloud phenomenon has brought technology platforms and apps to the hands of non-tech business leaders, often bypassing the IT department entirely.

These new decision-makers don’t care about the latest acronym buzz word, they care about getting business done.

This is not to say that specifications and blueprints are gone forever, but it does mean that technical conversations are irrelevant without the accompanying business conversations to make it meaningful.

The era of selling “things” is over. I’d venture so far as to say we’re not even selling solutions anymore. Instead, we’re selling results, results on how our customers can run their businesses better.

Now is the time to find the balance between technology and business, to truly start having the kinds of conversations with our customers that are focused on their business needs and not on how our technology works.

Are you ready to embrace this new paradigm?

Follow me on Twitter at @marstarke

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