Jargon blamed for holding back business technology investment

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Know what digital twins are? How about advanced machine learning? Conversational systems, anyone?

If you’re a data engineer or software developer, you might already know the answers.

For the rest of us, though, such jargon might seem vaguely familiar at best... or, at worst, leave us baffled.

And this failure to understand what technology can achieve could stop businesses investing in new innovations. For tech companies, potential revenue is literally being lost in translation.

Businesses are tired of playing buzzword bingo
— Celia Fleischaker, Epicor Software

That’s according to the results of a new poll, which suggests that tech companies aren’t doing a good enough job of explaining their products and services, even when it comes to applications that have been around for years.

According to the research, conducted by Morar Consulting, 22% of business leaders admitted they weren’t familiar with common technology terms such as big data or cloud software-as-a-service.

They were even less comfortable with newer terms, such as applied artificial intelligence and intelligent things.

At the same time, most of the survey’s 2,450 respondents said they recognised the importance of technology investments in driving growth.

“Businesses are tired of playing buzzword bingo,” said Celia Fleischaker, chief marketing officer at Epicor Software, which commissioned the research.

She called on the tech community to engage more with distributors, manufacturers and retailers “in their own language”.

Of course, it’s not just tech companies that may need to get their act together. As we reported last month, a survey conducted by UK business organisation CBI found that corporate jargon is limiting public trust in the institution of business.

Talking in jargon or technical terms can put decision makers off
— John Preiditsch, Six S Partners

For any company wanting to avoid alienating potential customers, a good starting point is to throw out the buzzwords and focus on what their inventions actually deliver.

“Businesses need to justify every investment in new technology,” said John Preiditsch, president at Six S Partners, an Epicor partner.

“Talking in jargon or technical terms can put decision makers off and make that justification challenging when there is a disparity over language.”

One tech company helping businesses to understand industry terminology is Google. Its online safety division Jigsaw recently teamed up with the Washington Post to launch the Sideways Dictionary, a site that uses analogies rather than definitions to describe dozens of technology terms.

Big data, for instance, is compared to a hot air balloon that allows you to see entire landscapes and identify patterns, like the flow of a river.

The dictionary may come in useful, given that other terms featured in Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017 include ‘mesh app and service architecture’ and ‘adaptive security architecture’.

Such terms suggest that, when it comes to getting businesses to invest in their products and services, some tech firms may have a bit more explaining left to do.


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