Managers told to avoid “geek speak”

Council managers using titles such as “head of IT” may find it difficult to be taken seriously by senior corporate officials, according to a new report.

A briefing by Socitm, the representative body for public ICT managers, says that local authorities need to pay more attention to the terminology used in job role titles and discussions about their work.

It recommends that job titles reflect the fact that such roles that are fundamentally about improving business performance and the customer experience, and that they avoid the use of “geek speak”.

The briefing “suggests that ‘IT’ and by implication, job titles like ‘Head of IT’ are associated with the negative terminology of ‘legacy systems’ – implying old-fashioned, not extensible, and possibly redundant, and ‘big IT’ – implying ‘bad’.

“By accepting such framing, says the briefing, it can be hard to articulate contrary truths: that ‘legacy’ is nearly always with us and is not necessarily a bad thing, and that ‘big IT underpins much of the new small, fast, light and ‘agile’.”

Socitm says that framing discussions and job titles about technology can lead to top management misunderstand what is being discussed, or lose attention in important discussions.

But it adds: “Frame the same conversation in terms of business improvement and customers, and the door is open for discussion. Choosing words that speak to management’s worldview, which is about business, information and service, is key to their successful engagement.”

The briefing says that simply adopting terminology focused on “digital” is also problematical, given that it covers traditional big machinery as well as the world of the small start-up firm and apps.

Socitm said: “Simply pitching ‘IT’ and ‘digital’ against each other is too simplistic in the real world, and digital itself is defined and underpinned by advances in computing and communications technologies.

“But IT professionals must recognise that others are actively using this friction it in their influencing and communications activities.”

The briefing concluded that council ICT professionals need to be aware that they terminology the use will condition how others feel about what they do and say.

What do you think are the worst pieces of jargon that public sector ICT managers should avoid? Comment below

Colin Marrs

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