Within our wonderful IT Industry there exists a disease. With its nexus in the US this disease seeks to obfuscate reality and confuse the masses in an attempt to create a CB handle for an IT elite. Through business BS, management speak, and unrestrained marketeering, it seeks to preserve a gulf between those within and those outside the industry, defending against the erosion of expertise brought about through increased public awareness of IT as technology becomes ubiquitous.
Analogous to the jargon adopted by the financial industry following 2008’s market collapse, deployed to mask the detail and degree of irresponsibility and incompetence from the public; our industry is riddled with faux-technical language and ambiguous terminology, which if brought to the attention of Ricky Gervais for instance, could be subjected to vicious Brent-esque parody. And deservedly so.
This section of the blog site seeks to clarify some meanings, as well as to mock those terms most deserving of mockery, and to ridicule those most ridiculous! Please feel free to contribute and submit your own favourites, and I will endeavour to update this page periodically to track the status of this disease as we seek the remedy.
I hereby present a B*llshit Dictionary:
101 – E.g. “That’s just Sales 101”. This originates from George Orwell’s dystopian sci-if 1984. In the novel Room 101 was the place of interrogation where victims would be exposed to a version of their deepest fears. A subsequently named TV show diluted the term somewhat to a list of stuff people just don’t like, however for some reason the term is constantly misused to signify just some basic error, or commonly rehearsed mistake. Nobody who uses this now (it seems) has read 1984.
As a side note, you can also thank 1984 for the terms “Big Brother” and “Thought Police”.
As-a-service – Yes, everything “cloudy” is. All part of the new managed service lingo for anything bought on a subscription basis.
As-a-platform – As above. Lazy marketing at its finest.
Baked in – Something included at point of manufacture.
Bandwidth – E.g. “I’m sorry I don’t have the bandwidth”. This means you’re too busy. A couple of points on this one:
i) You are NOT a radio.
ii) This is a passive aggressive dehumanisation attempt belittling what could be a stressful situation with an attempt to define something as inconsequential and/or robotically par for the course (See also “Off-line”).
Best of Breed – See also “Next Generation” in that overuse has rendered it meaningless.
Big data – Messing about with loads of information, and we all have to say that we do it apparently. It began as a term for analysis of vast amounts of unstructured data, but then the definition spread uncontrollably as these things often do.
Bleeding edge – It’s like “leading edge” only worse. It mean’s its good, and new.
Boil the Ocean – E.g. “Let’s not boil the ocean”. It means let’s not do too much now (as it may turn out to be unnecessary).
Boutique – An organisation, reasonably small in size, that specialises in something. But not an expensive clothes shop, or a beauticians.
C-Level – Full disclosure, I went months thinking people were saying “Sea Level” before realising it was a way of classifying CEO, CIO, COO, CFO, etc! I actually thought it had some connection to “Boil the Ocean” above!
Circle Back – If someone has “reached out” (see below) to you, and you get annoyed by the cut of their gib and ignore them, they will often “Circle Back” to chase a response. These two terms seem to come hand in hand. I’m not sure why?
Clear water – A term used to define some space in between. For instance, I’ve heard folk describe a gap in their diaries in this manner.
Cloud – A computer somewhere else. Or the Internet. A typical non-axiomatic word, i.e. no clear definition rendering it extremely flexible and interchangeable. Perfect for marketeers! Similar to cloud in its vague and inconsistent definition, yet not quite making this list due to its widespread inclusion in acceptable parlance, is “Cyber”. There does seem to be a trend in using this type of word to propel a new wave of marketing.
Close of play – When we stop playing something. A sport perhaps. Baseball? Or should we just say “by the end of whichever-day.”?
Cookie Cutter – Copy something and do it again. If it came from the UK it would be Biscuit Cutter, just saying..
Crocodile to the canoe – As in “It’s not the nearest ….”. It’s a statement regarding prioritisation. One of my all time favourites!
Deep Dive – Not just skimming over something. Oh no, this is a proper look.
Dog Food – As in “Eat your own dog food”. This (as far as I know) originated in Microsoft. When forced to use your own software for your own work, despite its flaws, as a way to encourage developers to get on with it and fix those bugs to ultimately improve the quality for customers. I guess that made some sense, but as with all these things, it escaped the walls of Redmond!
Double Digit Growth – 10% or slightly higher. If much higher the actual number is brandished. A great way of exaggerating to the untrained eye. Remember the 3 types lie? Lies, damn lies, and statistics! QED.
Ecosystem – A list of people you work with.
Elevator pitch – The quick version of a presentation. Clearly American, otherwise it would be a Lift pitch.
Embryonic – It’s new basically, or something new that has recently commenced. An example of one of the imported biological terms “It’s in its embryonic stage”…see how clever I sound now?
Face Time – Let’s get a (physical) meeting with them. Not to be confused with Apple Facetime – which I guess was named after this abomination anyway.
Floor plate – A strange one this, but have you noticed people using floor plate instead of saying they’re on the same floor? No idea why floor plate has become fashionable instead but it seems to have taken hold.
Going Forward – E.g. “We will do that going forward”. Everyone’s favorite this, however note the unsaid here… Going forward implies that there was something wrong in the past. It actually hides an insult. Just saying “next time” or “in future” are much softer and more neutral terms by comparison.
Grandfathered In – Automatically transfer obligations across. I’m not sure why we’ve skipped a generation though? Or why its a term now used outside of it’s legal context. It looks like the legal origins of this hark back to the aftermath American Civil War, as a kind of legal instrument to confer rights to often illiterate white males by virtue of their lineage. Thus perpetuating a disadvantage for the recently released black slave population.
Helicopter view – Stand back and look, as I don’t understand the technical stuff and/or I don’t like detail.
Horizon scanning – Looking into the future, in the style of a Meerkat.
Immersion – An intense examination of something. See also “Deep Dive” above.
Journey – “Let’s help you with that journey”. Everything nowadays has become a metaphorical journey. Ooh it makes it all sound all so cozy, friendly, and inexpensive.. For instance, Journey to the Cloud is a popular conflation of b*llshit.
Kick the Tyres -Basically try it out. Testing it. Trying out an evaluation copy maybe. Not that IT has any tyres. Why do people kick tyres anyway, lets face it you cannot judge the quality of a car by kicking a tyre. The whole act is ridiculous in any context, apart from checking for a puncture perhaps, and even then you can tell by sight surely? I’m not sure how much more useful sense data you can obtain through kicking a clearly flat tyre? But I digress..
Low Hanging Fruit – Lets get at the easier stuff first. You know, before we start throwing sticks up to knock the harder fruit down?
Methodology – “We have an existing methodology”, or in other words “No sorry, it doesn’t do that”. A deflective, get out of it, avoid the question word, if ever there was one.
Net New / Nett New – It means it really is new. Or just new! A borrowed accounting term, often miss-spelled with only the one T as in a fishing net.
Next Generation – It’s use to mean exactly what it says, now it means nothing whatsoever as everything happens to be Next Generation. It denotes nothing out of the ordinary.
Off-Line – E.g. “Let’s take it off-line”. Or shall we talk about that later? I’m not a computer, nor am I connected to any network so there is no need to talk in this fashion. The pre-Internet age version of this was “In the margins”, so a version of this has been around a long time.
Off the grid – This one is amazing. I’ve seen someone set an Out Of Office message to say “Off the grid” as in they’re on holiday and therefore not contactable. As if they we’re John Connor in Terminator 3. Seriously!
On-premise / Off-premise – Used to describe off-site or on-site hosting. This is a particular bug bear of mine as I cannot fathom the blatant misuse of English. I will demonstrate:
I’m not sure why this has been globally adopted and not questioned! They’ve used the wrong word!!
Open the Kimono – Reveal some secret. A privileged view of an advanced road map perhaps? I have heard this one several times, so unfortunately it is not an isolated skin flash.
Panacea – It fixes everything. Well it won’t really but that’s hubris and/or marketing delusion for you. Another imported biological term.
Pure Play – <<insert subject>> is all that they do. Shudder!
Push the envelope – Try Harder. No literally, you must try harder!
Reach Out – It just means “speak to” or “contact”, but sounds like it’s aimed at some disaffected member of society. I’ve literally no idea why this one was started, or what is its desired function, but it’s bloody annoying.
Sea change – A significant difference to how things were before, or a Kuhnian “Paradigm shift” perhaps?
Slow burner – Something that will take a while.
Spin up – E.g. “Spin up a web-ex”. Why? Do they spin round like a CD?
Stand up – E.g. “Stand up a service”. Then move back quietly and gently and hope it doesn’t fall over again!
Silo (ed) Approach – Contained, vertical, and not affecting the rest of it.
Single throat to choke – One person responsible or accountable. Nice.
Skin in the game – Put in some commitment. But a horrible, snide way of saying it.
Story – “It’s a good story”. Well not really. Pretty boring actually, it’s about how good you think your technology is. Yawn. If in novella format, i’d give it a miss. It’s certainly no Bravo Two Zero, which actually gets better with each read.
Sun setting – Or just ending something. “We are sun-setting those agreements” Yuck.
Synergy – “Lets discuss and see if we can find any synergies”. Double yuck! Not sure why exactly, but it just sounds wrong. Not a word you would use in the company of the non-IT community without attracting looks of contempt.
Touch Base – Speak to. Contact. Anything like that can be used instead. Anything that doesn’t invoke thoughts of Baseball (Or if you’re English – Rounders!).
Vocalising – This is literally a different was of saying “Said”. E.g. “It’s the first time I’ve heard that vocalised”. No idea why this came about, or what it supposed to achieve?
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah – Isn’t it annoying when instead of listening to your answer, you get drowned out by a barrage of “Yeah’s”. I think it’s supposed to sound cool?
To finish off with some even lighter entertainment, click this link.
Mr Kay pretty much nails the phenomena here: