Time to stop the buzzword balderdash and become meaningful again


Am I smoking something illegal, or has our industry really started to lose the plot with the amount of buzz terms that – quite frankly – only mean something to the sellers and advisors trying to make their wares sound that little bit savvier than their competitors. And even then, I am not too sure whether many of them even fully understand what they are buzzing about either, more simply regurgitating what their competitors are saying.

I’m not trying to be a fuddy-duddy here, and I do empathize with the exuberance of so many sell-side individuals who are simply starry-eyed at all the disruptive technology and evolving business models that are on the horizon, but c’mon folks, can we find a sensible balance between vision and reality?  Why has it become so uncool to talk about where we are, as opposed to where we think things might evolve in 5 years’ time?

I mean, wasn’t it barely six months ago when we were still having (relatively) meaningful debates about things such as:

  • “What is innovation, and how can I get some of that?”
  • “How can I find a provider to do something more for me than provide cheap labor”
  • “I really would like some visibility over my order-to-cash process chain”
  • “Our provider still can’t figure out how to automate our accounts payable processes”
  • “Do we really get value from outsourcing all this stuff – are there other options to consider?”

Instead, suddenly it’s become terribly untrendy to have meaningful conversations about what we’re actually trying to achieve… like improving processes, trying to do a better job than merely maintain status quo operational performance, and accessing meaningful data to help us get more value from our day to day operations.

Yes, folks, if we aren’t creating Digital Services on SMAC platforms, we’re going to fail with Big Data and the Robots will come to replace us… so let’s see what 312 major buyers – in the brand new State of Outsourcing Study we conducted with KPMG – really understand about today’s latest slew of sexy savvy-sounding soliloquies:

Click to Enlarge

All joking aside, there is a serious message here: too many buyers are getting lost in the verbiage and the lack of relevance to their businesses and simply don’t understand exactly what is being sold to them. Let’s be honest here, SMAC doesn’t mean anything to 70% of buyers beyond being a concoction of new technologies lumped together… finance executives have been talking about “Big Data” for four decades and nothing is really new except the fact there is better technology to help them analyze it… I can go on.  Oh – and nearly a third of buyers don’t know what “transformation” means to their business? Seriously?

The Bottom-line:  Our industry is simply terrible at communicating to clients and needs a major reality check

There is an abject communication problem in our industry, when such vast numbers of operations executives are baffled by the BS their providers and advisors are lobbing at them via boring white papers, instantly-forgotten PPT decks and thousands of automated inane tweets.

It’s time for the industry side to start tying all this buzz to the reality of operations – where we can educate how enterprises can learn more about where the world is heading, how they can start to evaluate the pace of change that will impact them and develop change programs and new operations strategies that make sense to their businesses.

We have got to stop jumping on the bandwagon of spewing poorly communicated rubbish that has little meaningful relevance to businesses today, and instead explain in plain English how processes and interactions can be digitized, how robotics could one day enable our business systems to become more cognitive and less reliant on manual steps, how new analytics tools and expertise can help our staff become more relevant and valuable, as opposed to turning widgets and updating spreadsheets. Most of the stuff I read today is focused 95% on flashy terminology and only 5% on the actual substance on what businesses can do with all this stuff.

It’s time to get meaningful people and stop this feeding frenzy of confusing jargon…

Posted in : Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Confusing Outsourcing Information, HfS Surveys: State of Outsourcing 2014, HfSResearch.com Homepage, IT Outsourcing / IT Services, kpo-analytics, Robotic Process Automation, smac-and-big-data, Sourcing Best Practises, the-industry-speaks



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  1. Phil,

    You have great talent to say what we are all thinking! I agree with every word of this,

    Jon Price

  2. Phil

    When I looked at our data as it came in over the last month, I think the area of greatest concern for me coming out of this question was the lack of clarity around the terminology of Business Outcomes. For all the good intention we have had as an industry about moving forward the discussion of sourcing benefits to something more than cost, we really do seem to have made a hash out of business outcomes. The sheer variety of ways in which this term (and related ones) have been used by service providers, analysts, advisors and the business press have resulted in this haze and confusion. If we can’t be simpler and more direct about what these terms should mean, this industry will suffer.

    I’m curious to see how our community responds to this call to action in the coming days.


  3. Great piece – you’re preaching to the choir here, Phil!

    We need to find our way back to reality and stop pretending to do things that don’t make a lot of sense but sound good,


  4. Phil,

    This blog is very timely and I agree with Charles’ comments about the confusion with the use of “outcomes”. Surely “outcomes” are those things you focus on after have an efficient operation running – not before?


  5. Well done, Phil. As one of the 312 buyers you reference as taking the survey, I would offer one nuance to the issue you raise regarding buzzwords. It’s not just that I (or other buyers) don’t know what some or all of those terms mean, it’s also that those terms mean something different to each of us. So, while I can be talking to another buyer or a provider about big data, cloud, or transformation, we are probably rarely on the same page as to what that means to us.

    Love the call at the end for just using plain English.

    Enjoy the work as always.

    Kevin McDonald

  6. Business outcomes are the things you don’t get when you lift and shit [sic].

    If you don’t have them, you need some Imodium.



  7. Hogwash Phil. We buyers have a cloudy understanding of the digitalness that has transformed each outcome that my customers SMAC around while applying robotic automation to the Big Data that IT keeps generating through ‘Anal’-ytics. I know because I read it on the Internet.

  8. Well done HfS for calling it out again – outsourcing can be made easier to understand and deliver more tangible value, but all that buzz and vapourware is wasting our time and letting the industry down – ban it & get real!

  9. Time to stop the buzzword balderdash and become meaningful again - Enterprise Irregulars says:

    […] (Cross-posted @ Horses for Sources) […]

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