Buzzwords for fun and profit

Posted May 15, 2009, at 7:39 p.m.

As I watched a television newscast and heard a lady speak of “longitudinal visits” by clients of the medical establishment for which she worked, it occurred to me that the language may be passing me by.

The jargon went unexplained, leaving me to figure it out on my own. Since a latitudinal visit to the medical facility would likely be one made by a client strapped to a gurney, I reasoned, a longitudinal visit must be one from a patient walking upright in off the street. Or not.

The definition works for me, but I suspect I may not be in the ballpark, longitudinal-visitwise, when it comes to what the lady on television had in mind. Ah, well. It’s not the first cryptic phrase I haven’t understood, and it won’t be the last.

I was reminded of this sorry fact of life when I read an e-mail handout from a computer software outfit that had made it past my computer’s alleged spam filter a while back.

The press release heading announced that the company is known for “enhancing operational excellence through the automation of best practices in the area of application performance management and delivery of decision support reports.”

That should have been my clue to stop reading and punch the computer “delete” button, for this thing looked suspiciously like it might turn into one of those bureaucratic ongoing-review-mechanism wordsmanship exercises where functional transitional flexibilities lead to systematized third-generation contingencies and such. But being a bear for torture the linguistic equivalent of waterboarding, I slogged onward past the point of no return.

A client seeking “increased insight and an end-to-end view of all the activities executing across their SAP landscapes” and who desired “enhanced user transactional visibility” as well, reported that using the company’s software “to automate best practices in the area of problem isolation, transaction tracking and decision support reporting helps us deploy SAP functionality to deliver innovation to the business.”

Easy for him to say, I mused, as I realized I was in over my head, with no review mechanism facilitator to pull me out. Two paragraphs later I learned that the software outfit had “proactively provided” its client with “automated best practices for problem isolation troubleshooting, and the ability to quickly provide user transaction history for analysis, as well as drill-down capability for problematic transactions across their SAP environment.”

Because the acronym SAP was not explained in the press release, I have no idea what it stands for. But I do know what it means in its lower-case form, sap. That would be me, for continuing on despite early-warning signs that to do so would be to abandon all hope of emerging from the buzzword swamp more knowledgeable than when I entered.

Talk of drill-down capabilities for problematic transactions, balanced policy options and similar obfuscations in lieu of basic English can render the message murky, to be sure. But the gods have a way of balancing things out, and sometimes the mail brings a message that could not be clearer in its intent.

Such a communication arrived this week in a plain brown envelope from a down-river friend. Enclosed was a fund-raising questionnaire from the Republican National Committee slugged “2009 Obama Agenda Survey.”

The survey, the results of which could have been accurately tabulated before it was even mailed to constituents, consisted of 15 leading questions along the lines of, “Are you in favor of the expanded welfare benefits and unlimited eligibility (no time, education or work requirements) that Democrats are pushing to pass? Yes. No. No opinion.”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out the correct answer to that one. Nor to understand that the questions would not have been any less loaded had the survey come from the Democratic National Committee and the questions had concerned 15 ways to blame George W. Bush.

The authors of such political surveys care not for the niceties of an even-handed question, of course, and probably even less about the preordained results. What they do care about is the heftiness of the check the recipient encloses in the return envelope.

A good return on investment gives them what my buzzword-spewing friends might call total management flexibility in developing compatible organizational concepts.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.net.

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