The Bad Habits of Using Business Buzzwords

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Collaboration vendors’ use of vague industry jargon tricks people into believing something important is behind the technology they represent, rather than describing how technology can be applied to solve business problems.

• Vendors should instead use plain, instructive language to explain how their technology can be a strategic asset that helps organizations meet their business objectives.

Every industry has its own unique jargon and buzzwords. Sometimes it’s useful, serving as a shortcut to ‘make sure we are all on the same page’; however, I have sat through far too many empty, jargon-laden vendor presentations and become annoyed at how ambiguous jargon inhibits effective vendor communication.

Many of industry buzzwords obfuscate much more than they communicate. A buzzword’s hollow meaning can trick people into believing there is something important behind a vendor’s technology and can encourage poor buying decisions based on unclear objectives. I understand vendors struggle to get their messaging heard; for that reason, too many marketing departments allow tactics like search engine optimization and keywords manipulation to dictate the strategic approach to product marketing. However, many marketing departments are so desperate to sound significant that their messages end up saying nothing, instead leaping on the buzzword bandwagon.

The reality is that buzzwords fail to clearly communicate and resonate with audiences and readers. With Enterprise Connect 2018 but five months away, I am considering drawing up my own buzzword bingo cards to stash in those lovely gift backpacks so we can secretly play during keynotes! The two main offenders in the ‘Buzzwords to be banned in collaboration and communications’ category? ‘Millennials’ and ‘Digital Transformation’.

I should point out that I have no problem with using ‘millennials’ as short-hand for describing 20-35 year olds. I get annoyed when they are used to persuade organizations to jump on board with the latest and greatest collaboration technology. The double whammy is when speakers proclaim that ‘Millennials are driving digital transformation’ or ‘Generation Y is shaking up the workplace’. IT spending should only be driven by the need to meet an organization’s business objectives. There are five generations in today’s workforce that all need to have fundamental competencies in an organization: the ability to collaborate and communicate across the organization as individuals and in teams, how they can help reshape the business to meet common objectives, and their aptitude for reacting and responding to an organization’s changing needs. This may require new tools; however, it’s down to an individual’s ability to use the technology, their competency, rather than the specific year in which they were born. Organizations should focus on the recruitment and retention of top talent as an objective rather than using new technology as a lure.

What organizations really care about is how new technology can for example, improve their customers’ experiences by making it easy for them to purchase, or help grow revenue by creating new revenue channels via smartphone apps, or how to improve productivity by simplifying and customizing workflow for employees. As GlobalData stated at Enterprise Connect 2017, IT no longer stands for information technology – it means either innovation and transformation (if technology is valued as a strategic asset), or infrastructure and telecoms (if your company views your IT budget as a necessary evil). The tools we use are, by themselves, a small component of helping staff collaborate. Organizations need to understand how to apply them correctly, and vendors should use plain, instructive language to explain how their solutions meet common business objectives. Relying on vacuous buzzwords does communication and collaboration buyers no good.

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