End Users Don’t Care About Technology Terminology

It’s clear that ECM technology is not currently changing, it has already changed.  Gartner clarified their stance a few weeks ago and I shared my observations from the last few years.  But while the debate over what we practitioners call Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Content Services, or Intelligent Information Management continues, for me it’s going to be business as usual with my customers.  I’ve said it before, good Information Professionals are translators. Great ones are diplomats.  End users want Information Professionals that understand how technology can address their challenges.

“Just give it to me straight, doc.” 

When one of our loved ones has just had a heart attack, do we really care about the differences between cardiac infarction, cardiopulmonary arrest, acute myocardial infarction, and about ten other terms that all mean roughly the same thing?  No.  We want the doctors, nurses, and EMTs to get the job done and we expect them to know what those terms mean.  How that medical professional talks to their patients in the past was call “bedside manner”. These day’s it’s called the doctor-patient relationship.  In basic terms, it’s how well they make themselves understood to their patients.

In the consultant-client relationship, technology terminology is just as unimportant to the end users.  They want to have their problem heard and understood.  Then they want the consultant to give them the answer that fits their need.  They want to understand that you have done the job before and can do the job again.  Explaining in high-detail how the underlying technology works is often a turn off to a client rather than a selling point.  Most end users don’t want to be given technology “lessons,” they just want the technology to work.  (Of course this is different when the “client” is a fellow Information Professional – that’s a different type of conversation.)

Technology Terminology Matters to Practitioners

Don’t get me wrong.  It does matter to us practitioners what we call it amongst ourselves.  We need to be able to know what each other means by terms like ECM, DMS, Records Management, and Content Services.  But our external message matters to recognition and awareness.  As we look to continue to grow industry awareness changing our “outbound public” terminology only loses the footing that the industry has gained.  We already created a fragment market as we moved from Document Management Systems (DMS) to ECM.  Many vendors still describe their solutions as documents management solutions yet barely touch on what is needed by users in this space.  A few areas merit mentioning:

Buzzwords muddle things

We also need to care how we communicate technology terminology to other Information Professionals.  I absolutely despise the inaccurate use of “hot technology” terminology.  Last year at major ECM conferences the term of the day seemed to be “content analytics.”  This year it was “federated search.”  Suddenly it seemed like many vendors that had been around for twenty to thirty years were now leaders in “content analytics” or “federated search.”  Most of the vendor elevator pitches wouldn’t pass a test from an Information Professionals.  These “buzzword compliant” solutions do nothing but create confusion with end users.  My last article, “The Real Meaning of Content Analytics”, I tried to clear up some of this confusion in content analytics.

Abbreviations bring more confusion

Another area we need to consider is using an abbreviation as an acronym or initialism.  Consistency can become a tricky comprehension exercise for end users and practitioners.  Look at Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS).  The way some people make CMIS as an acronym and others make it an initialism can create confusion in conversations. As an acronym you would say “/’sē-mis/” as an initialism you would say “/’sē/ /’em/ /’ī/ /’es/”.  For those of you that are confused, as an acronym you turn CMIS into a word versus as an initialism you would say each letter.  Only grammar nerds would describe this “Word Crime” in phonetic form, but it shows my point of making things easy for the end-user, in this case the reader.

A powerful example that terminology matters differently to Information Professionals then to end users is when AIIM’s 2016 World Paper Free Day Hero Award winner was quoted in the closing of the AIIM 2017 Conference as saying, “Until yesterday I had never heard the term ECM.”  He had transitioned his entire organization to a paperless environment and never needed to know the term ECM.  If that doesn’t prove that most customers don’t care about technology terms, what does?

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