Survey: Communications with End Users

In a recent poll of IT executives, forty percent said that translating complex technical information into layperson's terms is their greatest challenge in working with end users. This is up from 33 percent of respondents who raised this concern in a 1997 study.

The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by RHI Consulting.

CIOs were asked, "What do you see as the greatest challenge for technology professionals in working with end users?" Their responses:

  • Conveying technical information in non-technical terms: 40 percent
  • Prioritizing conflicting deadlines throughout the enterprise: 28 percent
  • Learning to interact with a variety of different personalities: 16 percent
  • Managing stress arising from crisis situations: 13 percent
  • Other/don't know: 3 percent

"As project teams become increasingly pervasive, technology professionals are interacting with end users more than ever before," said Katherine Spencer Lee, Executive Director of RHI Consulting. "IT workers put their interpersonal skills to the test daily as they collaborate with co-workers at all levels to implement solutions ranging from simple troubleshooting to developing enterprise systems.

She offers the following tips for more effective communication:

Avoid buzzwords. When presenting complex issues, keep the use of technical jargon to a minimum by relying on analogies and simple diagrams.

Don't jump to conclusions. You may feel you already understand the employee's technical problem, but commit your full attention to what he or she has to say before responding.

Show empathy. Know going in that each person's perspective is unique. Try to understand your colleagues' individual points of view and acknowledge their concerns.

Say it in person. Though e-mail and the telephone are convenient tools, schedule one-on-one and group meetings for planning and solution-oriented discussions.

Be patient. Some individuals might take longer than others to comprehend technical issues. Try using different phrases or illustrations until everyone has grasped the concept.

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