Something For Friday
"Ron Hearn" <RHearn -at- cucbc -dot- com>
<techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Fri, 16 Jun 2006 09:51:44 -0700
Business Jargon Index
Capable of being acted on or completed in the near future. "Which items
on our list are actionable in the next quarter?" I recommend showering
after using this one. Note: "actionable" has a long-standing legal
meaning different from the above.
at the end of the day
Based on the frequency with which they use the phrase, it would seem
that members of senior management are required by law to begin every
third sentence with "at the end of the day," a phrase similar in meaning
to "when all is said and done." For instance, your favorite CEO might
say, "At the end of the day, it's our people that make the difference."
Insert platitude here.
Plan your work well lest ye run out of "bandwidth," or physical, mental
or emotional capacity. Spake our friend Frank B. Kern, Internet Guru,
"....I just don't have the bandwidth to handle this at the minute,"
meaning "I don't have the manpower or ability to handle this at the
best of breed (n. and adj.)
The finest specimen or example to be found in a particular industry or
market. Like Papillons preening for the judges, companies position
themselves as best-of-breed. In truth, however, few ever make it through
best practices (n.)
Another widely used term promulgated by the arch-demons of business --
management consultants -- "best practices" is used to describe the
"best" techniques or methods in use in a company, field, or industry.
Unfortunately, companies often confuse latest or trendiest with best,
and the best practices of one era are soon superseded by the
ever-more-ludicrous fads of the next.
blue ocean (n.)
A metaphor for that holy grail of business strategists: uncontested
bring to the table (v. phrase)
Refers to what one offers or provides, especially in negotiations.
Personally, I bring a fork.
business model (n.)
An amorphous term having to do with identifying the specific ways in
which a business creates value, or simply put, how it sells stuff for
more than it costs. I'll show you my business plan if you show me yours.
A cute way of saying "agreement" or "consent." If you hope to get
anything done in today's corporation, you'll need management buy-in.
centers of excellence
Certainly beats centers of failure. Most companies have a nice set of
circle back around (v.)
A very roundabout (pardon the pun) way of saying "Let's regroup later
circle with (v.)
Like its cousin "circle back around," it means "to meet and/or discuss
with." Usage example: "Why don't you circle with Robert tomorrow to
discuss the Ebbers case?" I can't help but envision two well-dressed
exec types holding hands and madly circling around to the delight of
everyone in their cubicle farm.
Those modest, hardworking souls at the top of your org chart: CEO, COO,
CFO, CIO, CPO, CTO, Chief Dog Walker, etc.
close the loop (v. phrase)
To follow up on and/or close out an area of discussion. Closely related
to "circle back around" and "loop in."
commoditize (v.); commoditized (adj.)
A great fear and apprehension in business is having your product or
service become "commoditized," or turned into Just Another Mediocre
Piece of Junk (JAMPoJ to those in the know), completely undifferentiated
from its peers.
Nigh unpronounceable, this gremlin means "to turn into a component." For
what purpose will forever remain a mystery.
core competencies (n.)
Simply put, it means "what the company does best." When a company
focuses on its core competencies, it gets back to basics. I recommend
critical path (n.)
A sequence of events where a slip in any one activity generates a slip
in the overall schedule. Used extensively in the exciting world of
project management. Not to be confused with "criminal path," which is a
sequence of events that leads to jail, a la Andy Fastow of Enron fame.
A reference to computer processing cycles, this one can be used
interchangeably with "bandwidth". Either way, it's a bad idea comparing
yourself or another humanoid to an indefatigable machine. You'll lose.
Denoting project output or assignments, "deliverables" are often
"tasked" (see below), but seldom completed.
Despite the obvious reference to a telephone, this one means to
"include." For example, "We need to dial-in the materials list."
It's true that Shakespeare used "dialogue" as a verb ("Dost Dialogue
with thy shadow?"). But I've got news for ya, buddy: You ain't no
Shakespeare. Resist the temptation to use this utterly superfluous verb
as a substitute for "talk" or "speak." Usage example: Lets dialogue
telephonically via land line," meaning "call me at the office." Sigh.
In the bleak days before the arrival of our savior, the Web, Big Tony
used to claim that he had "eliminated the middleman to bring direct
savings to you." Big Tony used a shotgun to eliminate
("disintermediate") intermediaries in the supply chain; today's
companies use the Internet.
This mouthful began life in the exciting field of linguistics only to be
co-opted by the high-tech business set. It means to settle on a single
interpretation or meaning for a piece of data, or to bring meaning and
order to ambiguity.
disincent (v. tr)
The third member of the incent-incentivize-disincent axis of evil.
To get down to the details. One starts at a "high-level," and "drills
down" to the boring details.
drinking the kool-aid (v. phrase)
A rather tasteless reference to the Jonestown massacre of 1978, "drink
the kool-aid" means to accept something fully and (oftentimes) blindly.
If you think this one has something to do with the people who drive
trucks, you're wrong (but I still like you). It refers to the factors or
agents that move something forward: "What are the key drivers of
elevator story (n.)
A pitch to a corporate executive, or bored janitor, as the elevator goes
from floors 1-10 and you have a captive audience. Also the name of an
upcoming Tom Hanks movie.
Like your dysfunctional family, business is full of enablers - things
that enable something else, often of a self-destructive nature. For
instance, were you aware that "Total Facilities Management is a Core
Business Enabler"? Weird, I wasn't either.
Seemingly naughty, this one means "complete, from the front-end (the end
that faces the customer) to the back-end (your back office, which no one
sees)." Try to avoid this one in mixed company.
A foreign concept to many of us in the Internet world, "facetime"refers
to time spent speaking face to face, especially to senior management.
For example, I need to arrange some facetime with you next week.
feature/scope creep (n.)
The temptation to add more and more features to a product release until
it becomes a confused mass of incongruous elements, twisted and evil.
Simply meaning "functions" or "features," this one has gained widespread
gain traction (v.)
To gain momentum. "Cisco's new routers are gaining traction in the
going forward (adv.)
Meaning "in the future" or "from now on." For instance: "Going forward,
we see our gross margins increasing as our new high-margin products gain
granular (adj.); granularity (n.)
Getting down to the fine details,the nitty-gritty. Busy people might
stop you mid-sentence if you get too granular. Like sand through an
hourglass, these are the days of our lives.
go-live (adj. and v.)
A new product or system becomes available to the public on its "go-live"
date. Presumably, the same product or system will "go-dead" soon
heads-up (n. sorta)
"This is a heads-up" is a very American way of saying, "I'm telling you
this now because <Item X> is hurdling in your direction and you're going
to need to do something or get out of the way" It's simultaneously a
notice and a warning.
helicopter view (n.)
See "at 30,000 feet".
Senior executives, far-sighted individual with godlike abilities to see
the big picture, want anything brought to their attention to be
"high-level", that is, neatly summarized and dumbed down so they can
understand all the techno mumbo jumbo.
incent (v. tr.)
A transitive verb meaning "encourage" or "influence": "The program was
set up to incent users to spend more." Also the leading member of the
incent-incentivize-disincent axis of evil.
incentivize (v. tr)
The second member of the incent-incentivize-disincent axis of evil.
The unholy offspring of "instant" and "substantiate," "instantiate"
means to verify or document an instance of a particular behavior or
To surpass your competition, usually by engaging in one gigantic,
hopelessly ambitious leap of faith that is almost sure to end in ruin
and despair. Bring a parachute, golden or other.
Word favored by consultant-types meaning "something learned."
Apparently, "lesson" wouldn't do despite over 500 years of continuous
use in the English language.
leverage (v. tr)
The grandpappy of nouns turned verbs, "leverage" is used
indiscriminately to describe how a resource can be applied to a
particular environment or situation. "We intend to leverage our
investment in IT infrastructure across our business units to drive
level set (v.)
To get everyone on the same page, singing from the same choir sheet,
etc. Why neither of these tired, but well-understood perennials is good
enough is beyond me. I guess "level set" just has that
I-am-slightly-smarter-than-you-all ring to it.
long-pole item (n.)
Those of you who enjoy the occasional camping trip may recognize the
provenance of this one: The long pole holds up the center of the tent
and is therefore the most essential structural item. Likewise, a
"long-pole item" is the most essential element of a system or plan, upon
which all other elements depend. A linchpin, as it were.
loop in (v.); keep in the loop (v. phrase)
Used by loopy people who mean to say, "to keep apprised."
low-hanging fruit (n.)
The easy pickings, the obvious steps that an organization should take to
improve its performance or take advantage of new opportunities.
Sorta like "marketshare," but a whole lot creepier. Don't use this one
Meaning "critical to the functioning or success of a business or
project," this one is generally used in reference in insanely expensive
computer hardware that should be bulletproof, but, alas, is not.
To turn into a training module. Say, you start off with a simple piece
of information that anyone with a 6th grade education and a quartet of
functioning brain cells would instantly grasp. To justify your position
as a highly paid corporate trainer, you might try to veil this
information in a cloak of incomprehensibility, rendering the
straightforward a smelly pile of jargonous bile. Indeed, the information
has been modularized.
The noble mission of Web slingers everywhere: figuring out how to make
money off each page view, visitor (eyeballs), or anything else. If you
work at an Internet company, you've used this term... don't lie. Hell,
even I've used this term.
next steps (n.)
According to our friend Ms. Scarlett, "next steps" are "actionable tasks
delegated by management to close a meeting with no actionable tasks of
their own. May result in deliverables." I believe "next steps" and
"action items" are synonymous. Do humanity a favor and avoid both.
The end result, the bottom line, etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
"Net-net, we're still ahead."
"Let's discuss this offline." Euphemism frequently uttered in long
office meetings meaning: "Let's discuss this later in private because
you're way off topic again, idiot."
A horribly polysyllabic way of saying "carry out" or (gasp) "do." Oh,
If I had a pair of dimes for every time I've heard this one...
performance management (n.)
A euphemistic way of saying to micro-manage, berate, motivate,
psychologically manipulate, threaten, and then fire someone.
A "repurposed" UNIX command meaning to send a message to another
computer and wait for acknowledgment, ping means to follow up with
someone via email on an urgent, but arcane matter and wait interminably
for a reply. "I'll ping Henry on the Ewok matter."
The modern-day antonym of "reactive." Rumor has it that this gem was
created in the 1970s out of the parts of lesser words.
An ugly, ugly word meaning "turn into a product." Why should software
vendors offer free technical support when desperate users will pay $3 a
minute for help?
If your people are too daft to do something correctly, maybe you should
look to software programs to automate the task. If you follow this
approach, you are completing the task "programmatically." Ugh.
If you have a lot of sound, logical ideas, you're bound to run into a
lot of resistance in today's surreal corporations. This resistance,
often polite but always absurd, is euphemistically called "pushback."
Try not to take it personally: you're dealing with the insane.
quick win (n.)
Everyone in business is always looking for "quick wins," small steps or
initiatives that will produce immediate, positive results.
ramp up (v.); ramp-up ( n.)
To increase over time. "We intend to ramp up production in anticipation
of holiday demand." Just try not to cramp up.
Everyone probably has an intuitive understanding of what is meant by
"real-time," but that hasn't stopped many companies and consultants from
using the term to describe a quixotic concept whereby a company's data
is always up-to-date and available to whomever needs it, whenever they
To take a process or system designed for one task and use it for another
-- in way usually unforeseen by its creators. In the fast-moving
Internet economy, repurposing has become a viable substitute for true
Typically used in reference to software, this classic means "not buggy
and not a huge waste of resources." Or more precisely, something that
works well even under extreme conditions.
roll out (v.); roll-out (n.)
Companies are constantly introducing new products and services that you
don't want or need. The elaborate process of introducing something new
is a "roll-out." The verb form is used thusly: "We rolled this piece of
crap out to the curbside."
rough order of magnitude (n.)
Fancy way of saying "to make a wild (ass) guess."
Describes how flexible a system is in response to increases in scale
(number of users, hits, etc.). It might also have something to do with
To set the scope of a product, i.e. to determine what "functionality"
will be included. After products are "scoped," they are invariably
"descoped" as reality reasserts itself.
The holy grail with ERP and other complex systems is to produce a
"seamless end-to-end solution." The seams are the bottomless pits of
hell into which your data falls when transferred from one end of the
solution to the other. See also the entries for "end-to-end" and
Companies no longer sell products or services; they sell "solutions,"
which are products or services, but more expensive.
The final frontier? Are you daft? No, just the niche or market segment
your company currently inhabits or hopes to enter. Or, as your CEO might
put it, "How can we leverage our core competencies to enter the
special sauce (n.)
We can thank McDonald's for this one. It's used to refer to anything
While many of our more jargon-illiterate readers might envision
submarines upon first hearing this word, it is used by management
professionals as a synonym of "raise," as in "raise concerns." For
instance: "I think we need to surface those issues before the product is
synergy (n.); synergize (v.)
The (often illusory) value gained by combining two or more companies or
divisions. Also known as "economies of scope" and "corporate merger BS."
The essential points of a presentation, activity, etc. that the author
hopes you will "take away." Also has something to do with food in the
take x to the next level
I used to know a guy with a Level 20 Wizard. But seriously, this means
to move a product, service, or organization from its current level of
dysfunction to the next one
task (v. tr.)
Yet another noun turned verb, this one means "to assign." Now go task
someone with some deliverables.
30,000 feet, at
A high-level view or explanation. Please keep in mind that oxygen is in
short supply at this altitude, so you may experience lightheadedness.
touch base (v.)
Another naughty sounding gem, this one is simply a request to meet again
to discuss the current status of a project or task. "Rebecca, I would
like to touch base with you later to discuss the Smith account." You
gotta think this one leads to a lot of lawsuits...
turnkey solution (n.)
Wouldn't it be great if you could buy a complex system or piece of
software, plug it in, flip a switch and be off and running? Oh poor
Odysseus, you have once again been beguiled by the IT sirens' song. Keep
value chain (n.)
As I find it impossible to define "value chain" without sullying myself
with the very thing that I abhor most (jargon, for those of you keeping
score), I've chosen to "borrow" from another site a definition so
preposterous that I just had to include it: "a business methodology that
helps companies manage marketplace variability and complexity, and align
company strategies with execution processes." Thanks for clarifying!
value proposition (n.)
The unique set of benefits that you offer to customers to sucker them
into buying your product or service. Sometimes shortened to "value
prop," as in "What's your value prop?"
It's a win for us; it's a win for them. Everyone's happy and drinking
Means you're best in class, a benchmark. If your product, service or
solution ain't world-class, you might as well close up shop and go home.
Luckily, everything at your corporation is either world-class now, or
will be by next quarter. Or at least that's what management's been
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- Re: Something For Friday, Barry Campbell
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