In 1967, an American band formed that would soon come to be known as “Three Dog Night.” And those are slightly altered words from one of their biggest hits...”Momma Told Me Not to Come.” Apparently a band member is singing about going to party and seeing lots of crazy stuff that his mother warned him about if he went.
The origins of strange phrases and terms and how a rock band got it's name
Terminology is a funny thing. We hear something over and over again and we end up never wondering why it's called that or what a certain term means...we may assume everyone knows and we'd look stupid for asking about it. Take this bands name...how did it come about...what the heck does it mean? In 1967, the lead singer's girlfriend suggested the name after reading a magazine article about indigenous Australians, in which it was explained that on cold nights they would customarily sleep in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo, or wild dog. On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs and, if the night was freezing, it was a "three dog night." Now you know.
Have you ever gone through a process of hearing a term and thinking you've let the project go too far to now ask what it means? You assume that everyone but you must already know what it means so you're afraid to ask it's meaning for fear of looking stupid. That happened – literally, with 10s of thousands of individuals with cloud computing. It became a mainstream tech / IT term and everyone thought that all their colleagues knew exactly what it meant so everyone was afraid to even ask what the heck it really meant. I was lumped in there somewhere, too. So I finally checked into it and while I was close, I wasn't spot on – actually I figured it had to mean more than what it actually meant. It ended up being far less mysterious than I thought. It has been refined a bit from it's more original, broader definition, but in general, cloud computing is defined as “Internet-based computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked so as to allow sharing of data-processing tasks, centralized data storage, and online access to computer services or resources.”
VDI, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, is another one that comes to mind. I didn't think too much of it till I was asked to do a white paper for a client about it. Since they were offering a nice large payment for this service, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about. Going in, I was about 85% right about it, but did some quick research to get that to 100% and to the point where I could write a great white paper about it and their diagnostic tools integration with VDI. Don't get me started on “Visual Hacking” though – I've already spent an entire article debunking that as a crazy idea...that one isn't really hacking and it IS stupid.
What am I getting at? The bottom line is this...if you are the project manager running a large, complex technical project, don't make the mistake of assuming that you know everything about this technical solution and understand the terminology. And don't make the mistake of assuming that your entire project team – no matter how technical they are – and your project sponsor and your senior management all understand the technical terminology that is being used on the project. In fact, assume that at least 25% of them are a bit lost on 25% of the technical jargon you may be using. It's a good idea to put together a glossary of terms – maybe as part of the requirements document or an addendum to the statement of work or ongoing status report (and add to it as necessary) that identifies some of the less clear tech terms and defines them. Trust me, you'll be putting lots of minds at ease along the way without making people stand up and admit they don't know something. You'll also be managing the communication portion of the project properly be helping to keep everyone on the same page in terms of understanding and clarity throughout the engagement. And you'll be helping to ensure that good decisions are being made going forward because everyone truly is fully informed.