Businesses both adapt and generate language. Market verticals, industries, have unique vocabularies. Same is true of Law and lawyers, medical professionals and scientists. I think potting soil, not pod soil… Your kneecap is my patella. Your temp is my contingent worker. Your Vendor is my Supplier. Your candidate is my applicant. (But not always…)
The problem with specialized language is that it produces miscommunication and confusion until all parties in a project are clear about terminology, naming conventions, and are able to readily reference acronyms unique to an engagement.
“What’s the ETA on that S5211 for FDN?”
“Is that set up in IB?”
“I don’t know – has the OGC done their review?”
For most technical teams, abbreviations and acronyms are in such common use it seems absurd to spell things out.
“Do I really have to explain the VBED return grid?”
“You mean the Voucher Build Error Detail that displays all rows for search criteria specified when you search for errors? Yes.”
For most functional teams, the same is true.
“SNG comprises both SOG and Corporate.”
What does that mean to a technician asked to develop a tree and write a query?
And then, what is a ‘tree’?
Consultants, to be recognized as experts, must demonstrate the ability to understand and speak the specialized language relevant to a line of business. The best consultants have an extensive vocabulary of terminology unique to the client’s business language, and have the skill to acquire new words, concepts, and the connotations, implications, nuances given to their use in the client’s environment.
For years, technical folks would describe an issue or propose a solution and managers would reply “speak English!” The embarrassing but technically correct answer is “Sir, I am.” But virtually everyone realizes that the command to “speak English!” really means “say something I can understand.” To do just that, the best consultants switch communication styles – using metaphors, similes, illustrations, graphs – creating the storyline of what happens in a technical process.
Consultants call on basic communication skills to convey important information that requires not merely literal translation, but the ability to describe a process or set of related facts in terms of a different process and a set of different facts.
“A CI (component interface) takes data that needs to be typed into the system, collecting that data and putting it into a pre-defined format in, say, a spreadsheet, and automatically running it through the same program that edits when you type into it.”
To avoid confusion, spend time at the beginning of an engagement, as a formal part of discovery (even the use of ‘discovery’ in this sentence is an example of specialized language), to establish common language. Common language just might be the key to your success.