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Vexed By Buzzwords? You're Not Alone

Some IT execs have definite ideas about which business buzzwords they'd like to see abolished.

It's time once again for New Year's resolutions. Consider making a real difference this time: Ban business buzzwords.

The most onerous buzzwords hinder communication rather than facilitate it, and can make some listeners nearly apoplectic.

Certain phrases really never caught on, such as "friendly downsizing" (see "Let's Hear it for Congenial Decruitment" http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20010709S0011). But there are still plenty out there, wreaking havoc like a wild fandango loose in a theater. Some IT folks have definite ideas about which ones they'd like to see abolished in 2002.

Bob Elloyan, VP and director of enterprise technologies for public-relations company Porter Novelli International, is confounded by the frequent, inappropriate use of "methodology." "It's commonly used instead of 'method' and it technically means a study of methods, which usually doesn't make sense," he says.

And don't even think about saying "un-install" within earshot (as in, "un-installing an application"). Says Elloyan: "Instead of installing something, can I 'de-remove' it?"

If you're trying to make a pitch to George Muellner, president of Boeing Co.'s PhantomWorks (which oversees the company's research and development), be sure to strike "Open System Architecture" from your vocabulary. It's a phrase meant to imply that you can change any part of the system without adversely affecting any other part, says Muellner--a premise he doesn't buy. Says Muellner: "It is unobtanium!" Editor's note: Don't bother looking that one up in Webster's. It's a colorful way of saying you're about to be sold a bunch of snake oil.

Muellner first started to hear "Open System Architecture" in the early '90s, and says it's designed to mislead decision-makers. "It is used to kill systems 'that are not open enough' which means that they are real systems, not just Vu Graphs," he says. "It's also used to promote next-generation systems which exist only on paper."

Bob Azzi, VP of engineering at Sprint, hopes he never hears "optical startup" again. Entrepreneurs, beware that term: In Azzi's eyes, it's the kiss of death. "It makes me want to put them on my list of companies to be acquired or going bankrupt."

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