by Mark Settle, CIO, BMC Software

8 IT Cliches That Must Go

Mar 07, 2011
CareersIT Leadership

Nobody ever got fired for talking like this? BMC's CIO Mark Settle shares 8 IT catch phrases that won't help you go all the way.n

Now that another season of NFL games has come to an end and our national summer pastime is about to begin, it’s time to swap one set of cliches for another. Sports broadcasting is replete with cliches—nice, comfortable, familiar, predictable phrases that connect current sports fans with previous and future generations of sports enthusiasts.

We’ve just endured five consecutive months of phrases like: “He’s really picking apart their defense,” “They left it all out on the field today,” and “That was a costly turnover.” And we are about to endure eight months of phrases like: “Can he pitch his way out of this jam?,” “That ball took a bad hop,” and “He’s swinging for the fences.”

[ Want more low-hanging fruit on tech speak gone wrong? See’s 10 Most Exaggerated Tech Terms. ]

Sports cliches seem so trite and hackneyed that I sometimes have to turn down the sound on the TV because I just can’t take another round of them. I fantasize about retiring to a second career as a broadcaster, since all you need to know is twenty or so phrases that you use over and over again to describe what’s happening on the field.

But then, the more I got to thinking about it, I realized that IT is equally guilty of using clichés to conduct routine business. So, with no prioritization, here is a list of the clichés that I’ve encountered most frequently in my career:

1. “It comes completely preconfigured and can be implemented right out of the box.”

This vendor mantra that leads unsuspecting CEOs to start talking about ‘vanilla implementations’ of newly purchased software with ‘zero customization’ to leverage ‘best practices’ developed elsewhere.

2. “We are not going to let our IT systems dictate how we run this company!”

Somehow, paradoxically, this is uttered by the same CEOs who mandated ‘vanilla implementations’ only two meetings ago!

3. “We have never seen anyone else implement our software/hardware in quite the same way that you have.”

Most commonly, you’ll hear this used by vendor professional service organizations who have been brought in to clean up the mess that a company has made trying to implement their product with no external assistance.

4. “It takes three CIOs to implement an ERP project: one to sell it, one to implement it, and one to make it work!”

This is a very popular cliche in networking meetings for unemployed CIOs.

5. “How can it possibly cost that much?”

This may, in fact, be the all time favorite—comparable to “He could go all the way”.

6. “Just give everybody a Blackberry.”

Typically this is the guidance that the head of sales gives every CIO as a means of boosting productivity throughout the company. This is rapidly being replaced by “Just give everybody an iPad.”

7. “We delivered the project on time and on budget.”

This really means: “we managed to deliver a subset of the original user requirements while spending the same amount of money over a longer period of time to which we got them to agree.”

8. “No one ever got fired around here by buying XYZ.”

The granddaddy of them all, this phrase has resulted in the acquisition of hardware and software that is frequently underutilized—but has subsidized the college education of many sales reps’ children.

I’m sure this list is far from all-inclusive. So I invite my colleagues everywhere to offer their contributions as well.

Mark Settle, chief information officer for BMC Software, joined the company in 2008. He has served as the CIO of four Fortune 300 companies: Corporate Express, Arrow Electronics, Visa International, and Occidental Petroleum. Settle has worked in a variety of industries including consumer products, high-tech distribution, financial services, and oil and gas. He received his bachelor and master’s degrees from MIT and a PhD from Brown University. He is also a former Air Force officer and NASA Program Scientist.

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