Maximizing Collaboration Between Technical and Non-Technical Stakeholders

by Resource 1 on July 2, 2024



For your IT projects to thrive, collaboration between your technical and non-technical stakeholders is key. When done well, collaboration builds trust between team members, improves efficiency, and fosters innovation through the cross-pollination of ideas. By leveraging the diverse strengths and contributions of the group, teams are better equipped to tackle complex challenges and adapt to changing needs in a dynamic environment.

In cross-functional teams, where team members possess widely different skills and experiences, collaboration can quickly become a challenge. One of the biggest roadblocks to effective collaboration within cross-functional teams are organizational silos which slow decision-making and hamper execution. Within these silos, technical and non-technical stakeholders may have different objectives, expectations, and ideas unique to their roles. This division can make it difficult to effectively join forces in contributing to a common goal or project. With mismatched priorities, these teams may struggle to meet deadlines or agree on next steps.

To mitigate issues stemming from differences between technical and non-technical stakeholders, clear communication and aligned goals are critical. Effective communication enables cross-functional team members to share insights, build consensus, identify roadblocks, and brainstorm ideas. Communication is also the key to aligning each team member’s goals and objectives, which is essential for establishing a collaborative environment.

Communication Strategies for Effective Collaboration

Technical and non-technical team members often come from vastly different career backgrounds with varying skills and perspectives. These differences can cause a rift in how each stakeholder is heard and understood by their colleagues. Cross-functional teams can bridge this gap by communicating more effectively to promote stronger collaboration.

Establish Clear and Open Channels of Communication

A culture of open and inclusive communication is critically important. Team members should feel comfortable sharing their ideas, feedback, and concerns, especially when working with different stakeholders. Brainstorming sessions and regular team meetings can be spaces that encourage and facilitate these open conversations. Boost team collaboration by establishing communication conventions within the team. This may include deciding what should be communicated by email versus direct message, what should be shared via project management tools or platforms, and what team meetings are necessary to keep everyone up to date.

Integrate Feedback Mechanisms for Continuous Improvement

Within those clear channels of communication, there should be intentional opportunities for people to provide and receive feedback. Actively soliciting feedback from both technical and non-technical team members provides invaluable insights into the efficacy of processes and workflows. This feedback loop not only helps in identifying areas that require refinement or optimization but also highlights potential opportunities for enhancement. Implementing new ideas or reworking processes in response to this feedback empowers team members to leverage everyone’s unique perspectives. It also encourages the team to stay agile and responsive in evolving circumstances.

Eliminate Technical Jargon and Bridge the Knowledge Gap

A major challenge for cross-functional teams is communicating in terms that both technical and non-technical stakeholders can understand. Many people assume this applies largely to those on the technical side of an IT project, where abbreviations like RDMS, JSON, and OAuth are second nature and terms like load balancing, cross-validation, and microservices can quickly alienate non-technical stakeholders. Jargon can be just as common and confusing on the non-technical side, whether it’s abbreviations like SOP, COGS, and P&L or other terms that are deeply rooted in corporate culture or management processes. It is best to avoid slang, acronyms, and complex concepts entirely. Instead, use simple, clear terms to bridge the knowledge gap and illustrate your points with analogies, examples, or visuals to effectively communicate your ideas.

Encourage Empathy and Active Listening

Emotional intelligence is a vital skill in the workplace. As McKinsey reports, understanding the needs and perspectives of others and being aware of their thoughts and feelings enhances psychological safety, positively impacting communication and collaboration. Leaders can nurture empathy in the workplace through formal training and active listening, such as asking deeper questions in conversation, expressing compassion, and practicing vulnerability.

Address Miscommunication and Misconceptions

Miscommunication between technical and non-technical stakeholders can threaten the project or team. When conflict arises, encourage discussion based on mutual respect. While it may be necessary for the team leader to take charge, understand the communication breakdown is a team responsibility. A team culture that encourages open conversation can lead to more successful collaboration. Additionally, healthy disagreements that stem from diverse perspectives may catalyze greater innovation and more impactful outcomes.

Leverage Collaboration Tools and Technologies

The right tools and technology are essential to maximizing collaboration, especially for remote and hybrid teams. Often technical and non-technical teams will use different tools to track progress for the same project. Implement a joint communication platform or all-in-one technology tool to facilitate real-time information sharing and reduce barriers to collaboration. This may be as simple as leveraging your Microsoft environment to collaborate via Teams and SharePoint, or implementing a platform like Slack.

Align Goals and Objectives to Avoid Challenges

Open and optimal lines of communication facilitate strategic alignment of each team member’s goals and objectives. This is critical for projects with technical and non-technical stakeholders who may have conflicting priorities. Misaligned objectives can quickly cause confusion, duplication of efforts, or conflicts over resource allocation. This makes difficult decision-making profoundly difficult, inevitably leading to delays or compromised project outcomes. Team members with an understanding of the group’s shared vision are best positioned to collaborate in pursuit of those goals.

Identify Common Objectives and Shared Goals

Cross-functional teams must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and how each person’s role contributes to the overall project objective. Identifying shared goals creates a sense of purpose within the team and helps individual stakeholders align their efforts with the larger project. This is especially important if there are contract-based IT professionals working on the project, who may have less context for the project within the high-level vision of the organization.

Ensure Clarity in Project Requirements and Expectations

While common objectives create a shared sense of purpose, clear project requirements and expectations are still necessary. This means defining the scope, deliverables, workflows, feedback loops, and deadlines, and addressing how these components may differ between technical and non-technical teams. Leaders will need to establish how the teams will communicate updates as well as plan for what happens if a project falls behind schedule or is not progressing as expected. Regular reporting using established communication channels can improve teamwork and avoid misunderstandings or conflicts.

Select KPIs to Measure Success

Metrics remain the most effective way to measure the success of a team or project. Selecting the right KPIs is key. Before a project begins, the team must agree on which key performance indicators matter most to their project and how they will be tracked. When used effectively, KPIs provide valuable insights into how a project is progressing and allow teams to celebrate successes leading to increased morale and enhanced collaboration.

Maximizing Collaboration for Business Success

In today’s business landscape, technology has become the backbone of almost every organization. As such, the success of your IT projects is critical for your business to achieve its strategic goals and objectives. Maximizing the collaboration between your technical and non-technical team members sets the foundation for advancing these technology projects.

Hiring the right tech talent—professionals who have not only the best technical skills but are also capable of bridging the divide between technical and non-technical stakeholders—is the first step to ensuring success. At Resource 1, we pride ourselves on our ability to screen candidates for both their IT skillsets and their soft skills, enabling us to find the best-fit talent for your unique needs.

Are you looking to build a collaborative technical team? Resource 1 can help you identify top IT talent for all your hiring needs. Connect with us to start your search.