Less than meets the ear

April 8, 2009
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Last week, SAS Institute did what few other rearrangers of jargon have done: They got attention — in the way fashion hounds do. They’d like to replace “business intelligence” with “business analytics.” Why? Because “business intelligence is not “where the future is.”

Last year’s styles are never next year’s. Sooner or later, all clothes, cars and business terms become unfashionable. It’s not because anything really changed.

Neil Raden calls SAS’s move “all fluff,” and it is. Others I’ve heard from think so too, such as the eminent industry analyst I talked to weeks ago about another attempt at jargon-making. “What a bunch of b—” he said. “We have so many buzzwords.”…

Last week, SAS Institute did what few other rearrangers of jargon have done: They got attention — in the way fashion hounds do. They’d like to replace “business intelligence” with “business analytics.” Why? Because “business intelligence is not “where the future is.”

Last year’s styles are never next year’s. Sooner or later, all clothes, cars and business terms become unfashionable. It’s not because anything really changed.

Neil Raden calls SAS’s move “all fluff,” and it is. Others I’ve heard from think so too, such as the eminent industry analyst I talked to weeks ago about another attempt at jargon-making. “What a bunch of b—” he said. “We have so many buzzwords.”

Some of this bloggery about this goes off track, though, when opinions touch on tools and expectations of jargon. Neil, for example, scoffs at “business analytics,” SAS’s term for the day, because “it doesn’t tell me anything.”

Let’s think. What does “dog” tell us? Who would ever say “domesticated canine,” even though that might actually tell us something? “Dog” does tell us something because we’ve agreed on what it means. Words work like that.

One commenter wrote that “business intelligence” doesn’t imply any business value. Must it? If a shepherd mentions his “dogs,” must he correct himself and say “work dog”? Even then, someone might complain that that doesn’t say what kind of work.

Poor, poor “business intelligence.” We keep using it for now like a still-good jacket of last year’s color. But, ah, the weather’s changing.

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