The need for a common language: avoiding technobabble

One of the principles we are advocating in the book is the need to create a common language between business and IT to ensure that there is a common understanding of what the business is trying to achieve, relative priorities, the role of IT, measurement of the business value of IT and so forth. A critical aspect of that common language is the avoidance of technobabble and a focus on the what not the how.

This post from Andrew McAfee regarding “Enterprise 2.0” highlights why this is so critical. In it, Andrew points to a number of definitions provided by contributors at, including M.R. Rangaswami and Philip Lay:

Enterprise 2.0 is the synergy of a new set of technologies, development models and delivery methods that are used to develop business software and deliver it to users

[T]he three main pillars of Enterprise 2.0 [are] open source programming languages such as the interactive web application development tool Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript XML), the increasing number of SaaS offerings, and the highly anticipated appearance of hundreds of SOA application modules in the form of re-usable web services.

and highlights the likely response from non-IT business leaders:

I felt that we’d lose the attention of non-IT business leaders as soon as we defined E2.0 as anything except the process of using the new social tools within companies. There’s a large role for business leaders in this process, and I’ve found that they’re willing, even eager, to discuss what that role is.

They’re a lot less eager to hear about software as a service, open source development methods, offhsoring. Their eyes glaze over when these topics come up, and I can almost hear them think “We have an IT department so I don’t have to think about these things.


One can imagine a similar glazing over of the eyes as IT organisations try to sell the technology capabilities of SOA, virtualisation, federated identity, composite applications etc to the business instead of focussing on what those capabilities enable.

Andrew’s conclusion says it all:

IT advocates too often make claims about technologies that are disproportionate to, or even divorced from, what the technologies actually do. Is it any wonder, then, that the IT-business dialog is so tenuous and marked by skepticism, and that IT so rarely has a real seat at the table during strategic discussions? How long should we expect businesspeople to believe technologists’ assertions that a brave new world is at hand, and that it can be inhabited after one more set of trends comes to fruition?


One Comment Add yours

  1. put me down for a copy….

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