In the January/February 2010 issue of Mainframe Executive, Eric L. Vaughan makes a point about language as it is used by different groups of people, and the shorthand each group adopts to convey different concepts.
I have always taken a direct approach when describing computer-related problems to anyone, either a home computer user or a small business owner. The fact is, most people don’t care about why something is broken or not operating correctly, they just want the darn thing to work.
Our industry as a whole must learn to posture technology differently. Users don’t want architecture. They want results. They want software to work, easily and simply. They want to use it, not have to be schooled in it. We need to change the way we talk about it, starting by speaking in plain language rather than abbreviated, contrived terms designed to imply creative complexity. Language has played a key role throughout history and it’s no different in our industry.
We need to make a stand. CxOs throughout the world are begging for less complexity. They want to run their businesses with what the technology community can provide, but we’re making it too difficult for them to grasp what we’re doing simply by the terms we choose.
The magazine’s audience primarily consists of mainframe-based technicians, programmers, and senior managers. However, I believe Vaughan’s premise should be taken – in context – for all IT consultants, like myself, who act as technology advisers for a specific client base.
If a computer’s hard drive has crashed on a small network server, does the business owner care about the read/write heads or how the high RPM of the disk could have contributed to extensive data loss? I don’t think so. He or she is concerned with getting their business up and running, and how to handle the appointments and customers that are scheduled for that day.
Some technicians would immediately launch into a description of their efforts to perform data recovery using clean rooms and the painstaking process of accessing data on the disk. The small business owner stands there, eyes getting glossy, and says, “Whatever,” because that explanation doesn’t help him or her one bit.
Using “plain talk,” I would say something like, “The drive may be repairable, but that’s not our immediate concern. Let’s use the back-up from yesterday and restore that to get you back in business. We can figure out how to handle today’s data afterward.”
No jargon, no obfuscation, just simple, clear, concise statements. The business comes first, the technology takes a back-seat.
Isn’t that what you would want?
Tell me what you think.