Right Words Can Improve IT/Business Relationships

Ann All

Sometimes semantics do matter.


A few months back I wrote about how a reader had prompted me to think about my tendency to refer to consumers of IT services as "users." I'm not alone, of course. "Users" is an accepted and widely-used term in IT.


Still, this might be one of those cases where IT folks need to put on their marketing caps. As I wrote:

Users might not be the best word, as it does carry a vaguely negative connotation. When's the last time you heard anything about a user contributing anything positive to a relationship?

I shared thoughts from Deb Miller, director of market development for BPM software provider Global 360, who said she's used the term "process participants" when working with business people. I like that because I think it suggests a more active role for those folks. Strong participation from the business increases the odds of a successful implementation of business process management. (Or just about any enterprise application really, at least those that count on folks using them to achieve business goals.) I also threw out a suggestion of my own, "partners," because partners (good ones, anyway) work together to make relationships work.


How about "coworkers"? I was struck by a comment made by Bob Ashford, vice president of information technology for coffee manufacturer Massimo Zanett, during a panel discussion at this week's Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando, an event hosted by my employer IT Business Edge. When asked a question about project planning with "the business" (another common way IT professionals tend to refer to business people), Ashford responded by relating an anecdote about his coworkers, "not the business because we are part of the business as well."


I like that. I think referring to IT pros as "IT" and other business people as "the business" reinforces barriers at companies where relations between IT and the business (hard habit to break) are strained and could even create them at companies where relations are generally good.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 17, 2010 3:25 AM Loraine Lawson Loraine Lawson  says:

I like coworkers or colleagues. You could even do what every other department does and say, "The folks from Marketing/HR/InsertDivisionNameHere."

It could be worse, though. IT could call business users "The Others."


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