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The language of computing and business April 10, 2012

Posted by pgsdiver in Uncategorized.
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This is going to seem like a bit of a rant, but it really isn’t meant to be.

I really dislike the language of IT. It is just so specific, and generally we re-use and misuse terms that have completely different meanings in everyday life. For an obvious example you need go no further than the word “bug”.

In my case I usually hate using terms like that, but in order to get my point across to a person who has also been subjected to the same industry jargon as me, I just have to use those terms so as to make myself clear.

I’ll give you an example which wasn’t one of those I used today.

Analytics – IBM is using this term to describe a portfolio of products that extract information and meaning from your business data. Well, actually IBM says a LOT more about it and what it can do for you, but I’ve taken the liberty of paraphrasing for the sake of brevity.

Now, if I use the term Analytics to anyone playing in an IBM software space, they know what I mean, but to anyone else, the term could mean anything. It sounds a bit diagnostic (analysing a problem), cold (an analytical viewpoint as opposed to an emotional one), or even mathematical (Babbage’s Analytical engine anyone?).

So here’s my dilemma: Do I use the term with a business person who I may be visiting to describe the great benefits he or she may gain from using one of IBM’s portfolio of Analytics solutions, and run the risk of having them not understand me, or worse, ask me to explain it! Or, do I do what I found myself doing today, and launch into a confusing description of what I wanted to say without using the term?

I hate this because it can make it hard for outsiders to understand those of us in IT, but I suddenly felt better because I realised we’re not alone. Accountants have their own language, and I have first hand experience of this as a CPA. Lawyers most definitely do it, and so do doctors, which is possibly the most frustrating of all, our encounters with them usually being quite personal and thus the time when we need to understand what is being said the most.

So today I’ve decided to try to avoid jargon in all its forms. I won’t succeed, but it is at least a decent goal to have. If you are one of our clients, or someone with whom we come into contact in the course of business, and any of us at Team descend into jargon, please pull us up on it! Ask us to explain, in plain English, just what the hell we mean. We’ll do just that and then make an even greater effort to keep the jargon out of our conversations with you.

I’ll leave you with a challenge. Try to jot down any jargon you use in your workplace, and I bet you’ll have 10 or more words or phrases before lunch.

Yours in plain English,

Peter