What’s in a Word? The Most Overused, Jargon-y Terms in Field Service

We’re all guilty of it, at least a little. We fall into the trap too easily, and soon we’re saying things like “functionality” and “ruggedization” without a hint of irony. But as Sarah Howland, editor of Field Technologies Online writes, beware the industry jargon — or at least have the good sense to question what some of this stuff really means (hint: oftentimes, not much).

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The Most Overused Terms in Mobility

I read an interesting blog post recently on Harvard Business Review titled “I Don’t Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore,” about jargon commonly used in the workplace and how little sense some of it really makes. The author mentions some of the all-time worst business buzz-words, including “synergy,” “value add,” and “thinking outside the box.” It made me think about how this bad buzzword epidemic is certainly at work in the world of mobile technologies as well. I thought it might be interesting to examine some of the most overused terms in mobility (disclaimer: yes, we at Field Technologies are guilty of using some of these terms ourselves).

Rugged: There’s no doubt that rugged is a real thing. But, there’s also no denying that the term has become entirely overused. Just about everyone deems their product “rugged,” but you should keep in mind that there are real ways to define rugged. That’s why IP ratings and MIL-SPEC standards exist. So read the fine print — how rugged is the device, really? Any device manufacturer can type the word in a press release or on its website — look for the facts to back it up.

Purpose-built: If it wasn’t built for a purpose, then why would it exist? Enough said.

Easy to use: This one is tricky, because you do want to make sure that the technologies you’re evaluating and purchasing are, indeed, easy to use. However, how is that defined? What makes a product easy to use? I don’t think there’s any way to really prove this term other than to give your mobile workers a chance to test the technology and determine if they would categorize it as easy to use.

Ergonomic: Ergonomics, while important, is another term that has become more marketing jargon than valid identifier. Similar to easy to use, your mobile workers are really the only people that can tell you what device feels right for them and fits the unique needs of their application.

Best-In-Class — While there certainly are leaders in various technology categories, this is a term you have to be careful with. First of all, any company can claim to be best-in-class or to have a best-in-class solution without much to substantiate the claim. Obviously, what you want to ask for is the evidence. One good way to do this is to ask for customer references that you can talk with about their use of the vendor’s technology. If the company/solution truly is bestin- class, at least a handful of happy customers should be willing to speak on its behalf. Another good resource to utilize here are analyst firms that conduct research on vendor’s positions in the market, such as Gartner’s magic quadrant (www.gartner.com). VDC Research (www.vdcresearch.com), Aberdeen Group (www.aberdeen.com), and Forrester Research (www.forrester.com) are others worth checking out.

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Field Technologies Online provides is a resource for the optimization of field workers, service and assets. The publication's goal is to provide companies in the field service, transportation/distribution, government, public works and utilities industries with information on mobile technologies that can be used to improve productivity and drive efficiency.