Why Marketeers Speak Biz Blab

Last Updated Nov 1, 2010 4:25 PM EDT

My recent post "Top 5 Highly-Paid But Useless Corporate Jobs" sparked an excited discussion about whether the CIO job should be included on the list. One of the comments was chockablock with marketing buzzwords:
CIO roles are...all about a shaping a key resource for successful organizations. There is an evolution of roles that happens over a period of time.... Organizations haven't even woken up to the idea that there is a critical knowledge chain within their Enterprise. CIO roles are not data processing roles or software application or network management roles or even a clustering of these roles. There is a lot of work going on in shaping the Information ecosystem through Enterprise Architecture and Information Governance platforms.
I responded by pointing out the buzzwords, but there's a bigger issue here. That kind of bloated writing style is woefully common in the corporate world, particularly among marketeers.

Here's why.
Biz blab is an attempt to position the subject being discussed as important when it's not.
For instance, in the comment above, "shaping a key resource" sounds like the CIO is a demi-god manipulating some vast element of the corporation. But what's really meant by the fancy phraseology is "hiring people and buying them equipment." Similarly:

  • "evolution of roles" = "training and organizing"
  • "critical knowledge chain" = "sharing data"
  • "clustering of these roles" = "assigning responsibilities"
  • "shaping the information ecosystem" = "executing an IT strategy"
  • "enterprise architecture" = "an IT strategy."
  • "information governance platforms" = "an IT strategy"
So here's what the comment really says, in plain English:
The CIO's role is to hire and train people, buy them equipment, and organize them so that they can help other people share information.
Sounds a lot less impressive than the original, eh?

Notice that by stripping off the buzzwords and putting down the actual tasks, the CIO job suddenly looks like the sort of thing that just about any line manager could handle.

The cure for biz-blab, by the way, is to simply ask, about every phrase: "what does this mean, really"? If your mind comes up with a simpler phrase, use that one.

This is very hard for some people, because simplification often means admitting that you're not talking about something that's important.

But think of this way. If it turns out that, stripped of the biz-blab, what you've got to say isn't important, then you're doing everyone a favor by keeping your mouth shut.

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