15 Important Things Everyone Should Understand About Their Tech Colleagues’ Work

In many ways, the work of tech leaders and their teams has more impact on their colleagues’ day-to-day productivity (and customers’ satisfaction) than anyone else’s; yet many of those colleagues don’t understand well what they do. From underestimating the time and resources it takes to produce a seemingly easy solution to not enlisting help early when there’s an issue, some assumptions made by nontech colleagues inadvertently make the tech team’s work more complicated than it needs to be.

Getting to know a little bit more about what the tech leader and team members do and how they think can help nontech members better communicate and work with them to build impactful tech solutions. Here, 15 members of Forbes Technology Council each share one thing they wish their nontech colleagues knew about their work and why it’s important.

1. Cybersecurity Is About More Than Anticipating And Addressing Attacks

Cybersecurity/IT security is complex. Many colleagues immediately identify cybersecurity as dealing with ransomware or malware. The truth is that cybersecurity encompasses data, users and bad actors and the ways they interact together in an ecosystem of trust or distrust. Industrywide education that is more focused on prevention and less on jargon and acronyms benefits us all. – Brian Berger, Cytellix Corporation

2. Technology Is Constantly Changing

Change is constant in technology, and the intensity and speed of change have been accelerating. That is why the work of tech leaders is increasingly important. They guide and manage additional functions. They steer reputation, trust and safety strategies. They lead digital transformation. They have a huge impact on all aspects of a business. – Olga V. Mack, Parley Pro

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3. Building ‘Effortless’ Products Takes A Lot Of Effort

What I’ve found is that building features for digital products is often associated in people’s minds with the ease of submitting a post to a social media platform or posting an article on Medium. Such a reference is extremely skewed. Building products that are effortless for the user takes a tremendous amount of time and effort on the part of developers. – Mark Chiles, Hart Energy

4. Tech Development Is As Much An Art As A Science

Technology creation should not be considered as similar to working in a factory; it has a lot of art associated with it. You can have one engineer who generates hundreds of lines of code and another engineer who generates just a few lines of code that does the same thing. We prefer the latter. Technology development is as much an art as it is a science. It is important to create an environment that allows creativity. – Steve Cochran, ConnectWise

5. Tech Team Members Are Primarily Problem-Solvers, Not Coders

From the outside, technology roles can look like they are about this complicated thing called “coding.” In reality, technology roles are about complicated problem-solving. Technologists are very good at solving just about any kind of problem. One way that nontech colleagues could get to know their tech colleagues better would be to invite them to solve problems together. – Kathy Keating, Ad Hoc

6. It’s Important To Pitch User-Focused Problems, Not Solutions

It’s very important not to confuse yourself with your users. Too many products—whether designed for an internal audience or for the end customer—are driven by roadmaps populated with a list of features and requirements that have never been validated against the real users’ needs. Come to your technology team with user-derived problem statements, not predefined solutions. – Brady Brim-DeForest, TheoremOne

7. Impacts Of Innovation Aren’t Always Predictable

It’s not always possible to fully predict the impact of technological innovation. A new software tool, for example, often carries many side effects besides its primary function. Remembering the complex qualities of technology is very helpful in developing new products. – Alexander Belokrylov, BellSoft

8. Estimates May Change As The Work Continues

Technology is not magic, and it can be very complex to do something that, on the surface, seems easy. “Back of the napkin” estimates are not contracts; they will change when we know more about the work. Also, if the capacity of the teams is at 100%, and all that your budget includes are the teams, the money is spent—there is no additional budget. – Laureen Knudsen, Broadcom

9. There Are Multiple Ways To Solve Problems

Everyone at a company should understand that there are multiple ways to solve problems, especially when you’re using an analytical or computational approach. Simply put, nontech issues can be solved using tech-forward methods. By leaning into them, nontech colleagues can get a better understanding of how tech teams think and operate. – Joshua Pantony, Boosted.ai

10. The Most Challenging Part Of A Tech Leader’s Job Is Building And Guiding The Team

Despite what nontech leaders might think, the hardest part of being a tech leader isn’t developing technology; it’s managing people. Software is really good at doing exactly what you tell it to do. When you’re a leader, on the other hand, everything from keeping your team motivated to managing misaligned expectations to addressing complacency to sourcing and retaining talent presents a huge challenge. – James Beecham, ALTR

11. Developers Are Obsessed With The User Experience

Many of our peers may assume we get caught up in the weeds of working with technology and have trouble seeing beyond our day-to-day tasks. And while refining the technical aspects of our product is obviously our bread and butter, the reality is that we obsess over the user experience and the message we’re communicating with our product as much as we do the code and infrastructure. – Bilal Aijazi, Polly

12. Sometimes The Tech Leader’s Wins Aren’t Easy To See

While technology can be seen as a “give input, get output” model, building technology-focused companies can be very different. As a leader, your wins appear to happen less often—for a few reasons. One, you let your team take credit for the wins, but you own the losses and setbacks. Two, your persistent efforts often generate fewer, but more impactful, wins. It’s an unbalanced scale on the outside. – Jonathan Cardella, Ventive, LLC

13. An Event’s Frequency Has Nothing To Do With Its Complexity

If it happens once, it happens all the time. So many times I have heard a nontech person say, “We need to have this functionality, but we’ll only use it once a year.” The frequency of the event has nothing to do with how complicated the code to carry it out needs to be. A function may only be run once a year, but to the developer, it might as well be run every day. Code is code. – David Moise, Decide Consulting

14. The Long-Term Vision Is As Important As Short-Term Results

Often when working on low-level problems, both tech and nontech professionals tend to focus on getting immediate results. They fail to see the bigger picture. As a leader, I have to take a step back and think about distant goals. Communicating with my team members would be a lot simpler if they understood the long-term vision (not that discussions are unhealthy!). – Yasin Altaf, GoodCore Software

15. The Team Isn’t ‘Bothered’ By Helping You

Sometimes people don’t want to “bother” the tech folks because we are already so busy with customer-facing problems. They find their own solutions because they think they are protecting our limited resources so we can focus on bigger problems. The challenge with this is that it often creates problems (such as data sharing, support and security) that the tech folks end up getting involved with anyway. – Ken Knapton, Progrexion