According to the Book of Genesis, the Tower of Babel was erected in Babylon as an attempt by the people to build a structure so immense that its top would reach into heaven. To do so, the people worked in a concerted manner by speaking a single language, thereby expediting the project. Displeased with the builders’ intent, God came down and confused their languages and scattered the people throughout the earth, thereby creating the many different tongues we know of today. This, of course, brought an abrupt halt to the project.

We see a similar Tower of Babel effect in just about every company who has an Information Technology (I.T.) department. Because the I.T. people work in a technical world, their jargon is laced with a lot of well meaning, yet very confusing gobbledygook. Their language abounds in seemingly strange acronyms, abbreviations and buzzwords. So much so, it has alienated non-I.T. people for many years. Sometimes this is done to deliberately lay down a smoke screen to confuse end-users, other times it is done as an attempt to baffle people with seeming brilliance, but most of the time it is done innocently as I.T. developers must cope with fast changing industry developments and vendor nuances.

What might come as a surprise to outsiders is to learn the I.T. staff has trouble communicating amongst themselves. It is not unusual for sharp disagreements to arise among the staff in terms of what something means and the best approach for implementing something. Ask ten I.T. developers what something means, and you may very well get ten different answers. Why? There are painfully few standards in the industry which means I.T. developers are forced to learn the peculiarities of each vendor’s hardware and software, and the incompatibilities between products, hence a Tower of Babel effect.

A Systems Analyst (or Business Analyst) is typically the intermediary between the business and I.T. people and, as such, acts as translator between the two groups. This means the analyst must be knowledgeable not only in the vernacular of the business world, but I.T. as well. A good analyst understands the business, the end-user’s wants and needs, develops an approach for solving the user’s problems, translates it into specifications the I.T. staff can understand and implement, and reviews their finished product to assure it satisfactorily solves the user’s requirements. Some people would argue an analyst is not necessary, that the I.T. staff can competently represent the users’ interests. I’m sorry, but the communication aspect alone prohibits this and requires the talents of a true analyst.

One of the best ways to hold any job hostage is to cloud what you’re doing and keep it so seemingly cryptic that your superiors are afraid to terminate your employment in fear your technology will go awry and nobody will be able to correct it. This typically happens when no standards are in place thereby encouraging the Tower of Babel effect. However, imagine the progress that could be made if I.T. developers operated according to a set of standards, that they spoke a common language and worked in a concerted manner. As long as they don’t try to build another tower to heaven, I doubt the Almighty would be displeased (or the executives of the company for that matter).

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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