Thursday, September 13, 2007

How You Know When You're Dealing with Technically Ignorant People

In the real world, I work as a software engineering manager. As high falutin' as that sounds, I'm really only one rung up from the bottom, the bottom being the software engineers themselves. Above me are four levels of local leadership and then 3 or 4 more off at corporate HQ. My immediate boss is at least technically conversant, in that you can say something technical to him and he probably knows what it means, even if he doesn't fully understand it or would be able to act on it. Once you get past him, however, the technical fluency drops as quickly as the salary goes up.

Being the SEM, I'm in meetings frequently, usually local with the next rung or three, occasionally a few rungs past that, and every now and then with the remote rungs from HQ. I was in one such meeting the other day, and growing bored with the the self-congratulatory way they were slinging around industry buzzwords, I began to keep a list every time some rung spouted some bit of nonsense or another.

So here's the list. When you hear any of the following phrases, you know you're listening to technically incompetent and ignorant people:

  • "Knowledge driven enterprise" - I preference ignorance driven enterprises myself, makes me look smarter
  • The word "leverage" in combination with anything (examples: "leverage our legacy systems", "leverage the data", "leverage our core competencies", "leverage our leverage", etc....)
  • "Real world needs" - as opposed to imaginary world needs?
  • "Share across the enterprise" - the enterprise again? Anyway, give me a good, old-fashioned stovepipe app any day, job security doncha' know. This isn't kindergarten, we don't share
  • "Maximize the workflow/our processes/our data/ etc..." - need I say more
  • "Proof of concept" - this means hiring someone outside the organization and paying them a ton of money to tell you how great your idea is
  • "Enterprise change" - I'm getting tired of the word enterprise, and, anyway, don't we fear change? Besides, I LIKE the enterprise just the way it is
  • "Marry the datasets" - That means taking two stovepipe applications you paid a ton of money for that do pretty much the same thing and spending a ton of money to build something new that does the same thing the two apps you just replaced did. And what if the datasets or the same gender? Then we have to do the development in Massachusetts....
These are just a few of the phrases that make me cringe whenever I hear them. They are also phrases that let me know me and my team will be doing a lot of work with no clear vision on the result. After all, in the oft-repeated words of the higher rungs: "they're only web pages, how long can it take?".

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