Plain English in Information Technology

Plain English in Information Technology

There's no doubt about it, Information Technology is loaded with acronyms! I remember when I first got into IT in the late 90's, and people were throwing them around as much as possible to sound cool.

I was learning back then, (and trying to learn fast might I add), and naturally every time I heard an unfamiliar IT word or acronym, I'd ask what it meant. Hilariously, they quite often didn't know! They usually knew what it did, and how to configure it, but couldn't always work out the definition!

I always found that quite perplexing, because when IT people didn't even know what something meant, what's the point of using these words or acronyms in the presence of non IT people? It struck me quite early therefore that good communication in IT is usually about explaining things as simply as possible (without making out like you're talking to a baby of course).

Personally I've found the best way to explain things is to draw diagrams, and use analogies along with plain English descriptions. Sometimes my diagrams would get a bit creative, or the analogies a bit bizarre, but the important thing is that people understood my message. This becomes vitally important when you're sitting in front of an executive committee and you're trying to rationalise a large IT expenditure or change. The attendees will be trying to grasp the concept to understand the value in the change, so even if you can justify a spend via a nice ROI or reduction in IT risk or IT cost, it's important to get them understanding the concept, seeing the value in it, and becoming a champion for the change in their part of the organisation.

Of course there are times when jargon is right at home, and that's when you are dealing with people that understand it. If efficiencies are to be had by talking like a Star Trek engineer, then go for it!

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