Have we an outbreak of acronym-itis?

First off, apologies to industry analyst IDC for having a dig at its terminology in this article. The practice of using industry-speak without the required irony is a common affliction within IT, and to point the finger at any one person or organisation is slightly unfair. Yet the example given by IDC is so good and reflects so well the problem which industry speak creates that it is too compelling to pass on.

The words in question were used and promoted at an IDC conference earlier in the summer – Dynamic IT. According to IDC, 94 per cent of attendees said that Dynamic IT “has an impact on their technology strategy”. Good for them you might think, but what are they talking about? An analyst at the firm attempted to explain the phrase by talking about the expectation for Dynamic IT to help improve ROI (Return On Investment), because businesses are now looking at IT in terms of overall business value rather than obsessing over upfront costs.

At the risk of becoming too pedantic, surely if we look at the phrase purely in terms of definition, Dynamic IT means applying IT in a fluid and energetic manner – a worthy goal for any IT department. Dynamic IT doesn’t, however, even allure to the idea of proving value of IT and the spend which should be allocated.

The problem here is in making the phrase ‘Dynamic IT’ an uppercase, catchall phrase. Doing this cheapens worthy ideas and, if enough people latch on to the term, these ideas become faddish. Look at these examples. Every company needs to have systems and processes which govern back office functions, but who among us likes the expression ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) which was used to describe this very structure? Similarly, the practice of ordering information relating to inbound and outbound customer communication is a necessity for businesses, yet the tag of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is still riddled with negative connotations.

The examples above are the result of a collective effort from all of the companies involved rather than any one company, and the same is true in the case of IDC and the current IT market. We are witnessing a scramble among IT suppliers at the moment to redefine the market – to reflect its new business focus, the ending of IT’s isolation, and the intelligent application of technology to help rather than hinder workers. All of these concepts are valid, but in trying to condense them down it is hard not to resort to using a cute phrase, which therefore equals yet more annoying buzz words.

The message is quite simple. Always shield yourself against terminology that doesn’t mean anything. It is when we begin to accept acronyms and other shorthand expressions that often the original meaning is lost. Markets do not change as drastically as the press or suppliers insist that they do, the basics underpinning good IT service management are not drastically altered from ten years ago. There is nothing wrong with trying to create dynamic IT within your business, or attempting to align IT processes with the business, but always be mindful of what you are trying to achieve and why you are trying to achieve it. And remember to continually remind your staff of these aims in case lingo and jargon distort the original meaning.

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