Software // Information Management
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9/2/2008
01:26 PM
Neil Raden
Neil Raden
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Just a User

When you sign up for a Webinar, or even just register to download a white paper, you can be sure that you will shortly get a follow-up phone call. The caller almost never has any inkling what you or their client does, so the questions are sometimes amusing, other times pretty dumb. I haven't gotten so old and cranky yet that this ruins my day, but I got a call last week that was notable...

When you sign up for a Webinar, or even just register to download a white paper, you can be sure that you will shortly get a follow-up phone call. The caller almost never has any inkling what you or their client does, so the questions are sometimes amusing, other times pretty dumb. I haven't gotten so old and cranky yet that this ruins my day, but I got a call last week that was notable.

After the brief introduction, the question was, "I want to ask some questions about your database."

"Excuse me," I said, "I'm an analyst."

"A what?""An analyst, an industry analyst and consultant," I replied.

Here it comes...

"Oh, you mean you're just a user?"

In point of fact, there are only two industries that refer to their customers as "users," and I don't have to spell out what the other one is. But using the word "just" really changes the whole picture. Would you say someone is "just a nurse" or "just a renter?" I hope not.

This is a long-running problem that isn't unique to IT, but they've perfected it. Referring to people who work with the systems they devise as users is demeaning and also damaging. In some cases, IT attempted to get away from the user tag, and now they simply refer to the "other" as "the business." This is almost tribal. You can find, cross-culturally, that many societies have referred to themselves with some proper noun and everyone else as "other." It shows a marked disinterest in understanding those outside your tribe/circle/department. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in your organization to answer the question, "Who are you?" with "I'm the business."

In fact, isn't IT "the business" too? Aren't IT people "users" of various systems too? The whole thing is silly. So come on, IT, let's learn a little bit about what people in your organization actually do for a living and show them a little respect by identifying them accurately.When you sign up for a Webinar, or even just register to download a white paper, you can be sure that you will shortly get a follow-up phone call. The caller almost never has any inkling what you or their client does, so the questions are sometimes amusing, other times pretty dumb. I haven't gotten so old and cranky yet that this ruins my day, but I got a call last week that was notable...

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