08 Aug 2011 The emporer’s new clothes – or why switched on businesses have rumbled the analysts
What is often criticised and mocked as management consultancy speak is in fact a succint vocabularly of specialist jargon. The specialists understand it – they need it. They need a language to describe the highly specialist things that they do. To outsiders it can seem deliberately confusing – a launguage designed to exclude all but the initiated. But it’s not deliberate – is it?
There are times when even respectable firms allow themselves to be drawn into the trap of using invented language to an extent that their credibility comes into question. Here’s an example from Deloitte describing future IT trends: “The new generation of capability cloud services spans capacity layers and adds new business process functions to produce an integrated business capability.” This reminds me of the pretentious restaurant serving things like “tart fine of baby artichokes, hazelnut and asparagus vinaigrette with a bay leaf foam” – I daren’t let the waiter know that I have no clue what this is. In fact I’m afraid to ask – but I’ll order it anyway – that way, I look like I know what I’m doing.
I would maintain that for most of the time, the use of over-complicated specialist and invented language is not done deliberately to intimidate or confuse but that does not mean that it never is. Consultancy and analyst speak is often used like the Emperor’s new clothes – to deliberately intimidate the audience – to present something so far fetched that they dare not question it for fear of revealing that they don’t understand it. It’s become an industry in itself – to take catchy concepts – trending topics – things like cloud computing, social media, web 2.0 and hi-jack them, turn them into something else, invent new language around them like ‘social business’. Don’t get me wrong, this is sometimes real thought leadership – moving and extending business thinking – but most of the time it’s just plain bullshit. And this is why the truly enlightened decision makers are beginning to turn their backs on the traditional analysts.
The problem with the analysts is that the use of the emperor’s new clothes style has become prevalent. This, combined with a reluctance to be critical of the dominant vendors and the increasing tendency of the analysts to reproduce vendors’ sales messages unchecked is compromising their integrity and increasingly, the smaller specialist industry commentators are seen as having a more reliable finger on the pulse of industry.