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Kelly Waters is Web Technology Director for IPC Media, one of the UK's largest publishers of consumer magazines and web sites. Kelly has been in software development for about 25 years and is a well-known narrator of agile development principles and practices, as a result of his popular blog 'Agile Software Development Made Easy!' (www.agile-software-development.com). Kelly is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 40 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

IT People Mind Your Language!

03.29.2011
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Whether you’re using agile development methods or any other methodology, language is important.

And I don’t mean whether you’re speaking English or another foreign language.    I mean the words people choose to use in the office.

There are two examples of this that I find particularly irritating…

The first is how people in IT refer to themselves as ‘resources’.   I know that strictly speaking people are resources, but it sounds like they are commodities, and in my experience they certainly are not.   If we really value people, and it’s not just lip service, we would not think of people, our most valuable assets, simply as resources.

I think traditional project management methods are guilty of making this phrase normal in IT.   But I don’t think it helps that most companies have a department called HR.  Coincidentally, Jean Tabaka at Rally has just blogged about this issue and what they should call their HR Director vacancy.

And it’s just as bad the way IT people refer to others in the same company as ‘the business’.   It’s a strange phenomena, as though IT people see themselves as external to the company they’re working for, which might actually help to explain why so many IT departments are treated like external suppliers – something that I personally think is a very unhealthy way for internal relationships to be.

Referring to IT people as ‘resources’ and our colleagues as ‘the business’ fosters an us and them culture – something that can result in resentment, and all sorts of bad behaviours that can make a place an unpleasant and uncooperative place to work.  And I think IT people are the worst culprits.   These phrases have come from IT, and personally I think have subtle but very negative consequences.

So the question is, are these phrases now so deeply embedded in the IT vocabulary that they can’t be changed? Or can we change it…

Kelly.
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(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Shumona Kapil replied on Sun, 2012/02/19 - 9:32am

Good post. As an IT consultant I’m irked when I am called a resource, but never thought that my use of the term “the business” was doing the same thing. I actually think this concept can actually be applied more abstractly than agile projects. Avoiding the “us and them” mentality enterprise-wide will help break down silos within the company.

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