Editorial Viewpoint: Out of the mouths of CIOs

It’s been said a hundred different ways: “We’ve got to speak the language of the business.” “We’ve got to approach senior management on their own level.” “We can’t use technospeak.” Or as one former Canadian CEO so bluntly put it, “You’ve got to get the IT lingo right so that the dummies on the board can understand it..”

No matter how you slice it, it all boils down to the same thing. In the world of senior business management, ‘tech’ is a four-letter word.

By now, most foul-mouthed CIOs have gone the way of the dodo (no pun intended). By foul-mouthed, I mean the ones who wouldn’t blush at dropping a ‘giga’ or a “SCSI” or an “OLTP” in mixed (read business) company. The rest of you – the ones who still have jobs – have learned, in varying degrees, to practice verbal abstinence when engaged in conversation with corporate management.

Many have even gone so far as to expunge the ‘tech’ word entirely from their business vocabulary. In some of our best companies, you will not find an information technology department – it does not exist. There’ll be something that looks like an IT department, that smells like an IT department, that performs all the functions of an IT department… but it damned well won’t be called one. You’ll find it under the name “Information Management” or “Business Information Services” or some such business-friendly moniker.

Some might scoff at the notion, saying the change is only cosmetic. But considering the fact that IT is the ugly duckling of enterprise operations, whatever can be done to spruce up its image has got to be a good thing.

In my view, IT execs who have exhibited religious zeal in eliminating all those nasty little ‘tech’ words from their business vocabulary are to be applauded and emulated. Much as we may think we’ve bridged the technology/business gap, there are still far too many business executives who are still convinced that “IT just doesn’t get it.” Eliminating the last vestiges of technospeak from our vocabulary may not get them to change their minds, but it’s another step in the right direction.

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