Earlier today, an IABC colleague suggested that I explain what I do as an “IT communications analyst.” That explanation wasn’t relevant to the original blog entry on the IABC Cafe, but does give me something to write about here.

When I applied for the job, I thought that IT communications sounded interesting, and that it must be very specialized. I thought I was the only person in the world solely committed to IT communications. That misperception was clarified after I decided to renew my membership in the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), following a few years as a lapsed member. Battle scars from a tough job market had convinced me that I needed to strengthen my professional network.

When I rejoined IABC and attended some Chicago Chapter events, I began to meet other people who were fully, or partially, engaged in supporting communications within IT departments at their respective firms. What a revelation!

I hope that they will contribute comments to this blog entry over time, so that you can hear several voices on the topic. We play different roles within the companies we serve. One parallel responsibility is that we plan, produce and measure the results of communications that improve information flows within IT departments, and between IT and other parts of the business.

What do we do? Here’s an example of the need, as expressed by a manager when I was interviewing for my current position:

IT people are good at designing and building systems. We’re just not very good at telling people about it. We are great at figuring out ways to generate and gather data, but we don’t know how to provide that data to the other parts of the business in a way that makes sense to them. I say that we are “data rich,” but “information poor.”

IT departments have been under scrutiny for several years now to show the “value” that they bring to the company. No one questioned spending millions of dollars on IT projects in the late 1990s because we were concerned about the world ending with Y2k, if we weren’t prepared. No one in IT really had to explain what the money was spent on, other than it prevented the Y2k bug from destroying the company.

But when the economy headed south in the first few years of this century, companies needed to tighten the corporate belt, and IT was put under the microscope. IT leaders soon realized the importance of being able to articulate their vision and accomplishments to their superiors and the corporate bean counters. Enter IT communicators.

In my case, I developed a strategic communication plan that tied IT initiatives to corporate strategies. I also helped to build a communication infrastructure at the office where I’m located, including a prototype IT Intranet, where employees can quickly find templates and guidelines to help them to communicate more efficiently and effectively.

I don’t have specific IT training or knowledge. That actually has come in handy, as I’ve stopped the spread of jargon and worked with people to explain things in language that non-geeks understand.

Recently, my CIO left the company. I provided strategic advice on how to communicate the event within the company, and how to prevent an escalation of internal anxiety. I worked with the company leadership to plan an all-employee meeting along with Q&As. This was accomplished between the time that I and my peers heard that the CIO was leaving (9 am) and when the all-employee meeting began (2:30 pm).

Not different from other communicators. I just get to see all of the cool, new toys.