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Cut the jargon to avoid technology for tech’s sake

Technology jargon: Ian Wilson is commercial territory-lead at Altron Karabina. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
Ian Wilson is commercial territory-lead at Altron Karabina. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

As you read this, the last thing you expect – or want – to read about is the author unpacking the best ideas, pivoting, and then circling back to close the loop, where we will touch base offline. While it may signify blue sky thinking that moves the needle, it may require a deep dive later to ideate fresh solutions for old pain points, writes Ian Wilson, commercial territory-lead at Altron Karabina.

Jargon, really, is hot air. It is distracting at best and misleading at worst. Why, then, is the technology industry awash with TLAs (three-letter acronyms) and enough jargon to write a dictionary?

Recently, while sitting among a group of technical experts and business executives someone asked: “How are you doing with hydrating your data lake?” Take a moment to consider that question. The problem with these clever catchphrases or jargon-rich cliches, is that someone else hears this, thinks it was catchy, and before long they use it in another context with another customer or group of technical people. And, like a virus, it spreads quickly, becoming a jargon pandemic.

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Altron Karabina, as you may know, is a Microsoft partner, meaning we design solutions using the incredible Microsoft suite. If you’ve ever been to a convention of IT experts or been in a room where experts throw around ideas, you know you will need to keep Google (or Bing, depending on your preference) handy to look up the plethora of acronyms.

Has the industry really devolved to the point where no one besides our peers can understand us? This is a massive problem considering our primary objective is driving positive change in customers’ businesses.

Put simply, it is the job of an IT consultant to understand the business objectives and then figure out how he or she will drive business outcomes using the technology tools at their disposal. Essentially, this means we should be business outcome-focused instead of obsessed with ticking KPI boxes such as the number of hours spent, burndown rate, and more. What was the impact on the business?

Altron Karabina has written about its work with The Aurum Institute recently. At a certain point, it became obvious that the implementation of the solutions was diverging from the actual business objectives of Aurum. The project was stopped and leaders on both sides of the relationship thrashed out what business outcomes the institute needed to see. A new solution was designed specifically to achieve those outcomes. The result was an implementation that was a resounding success.

The last thing you want as a consultant is to design a brand-new system just like the old system, and this is a very real risk if you are obsessed with KPI box-ticking, which is exacerbated by a culture of excessive IT jargon in the absence of real communication.

In situations such as these, people dive headfirst into technology and go down a rabbit hole that becomes a “tech for tech’s sake” exercise. When reporting along the journey to the customer, jargon-rich dialogue masks the absence of a key question: is what you are doing to achieve real business objectives?

One may feel that this is easier said than done. On the contrary, it is easier done than said. At the outset, from the very first engagement, there needs to be honest and open communication that leads to a contract outlining the conditions of customer satisfaction. These are the conditions that would determine whether the project is a success or not. These are client value outcomes and become the blueprint to check performance and progress against – not hours spent, or solutions integrated.

By having these conversations, in simple business language, a partner can be crystal clear on the business outcomes and then architect that into a technical solution. Then, during a project and once it is delivered, success is measured against the C-suite’s real expectations. This is the recipe for success.

Digital transformation is a long journey, and the most spectacular failures are expensive implementations that were embarked upon for technology’s sake. A good first step at preventing this from happening is cutting the jargon, ruthlessly, and then listening, and communicating simply but honestly with the businesses you wish to improve. You then ensure the absolute best technical skills are assembled to build and implement against this crystal-clear understanding of the client’s value outcomes.

  • Ian Wilson is commercial territory-lead at Altron Karabina. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Ventureburn.

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