Jargon is holding South African businesses back from new technology investment, says Epicor
Global enterprise software specialist calls for vendors to engage with customers in business language, instead of tech buzzwords.
With technology jargon constantly changing, business professionals around the world are struggling to gain a proper understanding of the technologies they need to embrace, to shape the future of their businesses. This is one of the findings of a study from Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software to promote business growth. The global survey of business decision-makers and employees, which set out to understand the key drivers for business growth, has found a worrying lack of understanding around industry terminology in South Africa.
One-in-five business leaders admitted they had heard of, but were not familiar with, common technology terms such as big data (22%) and cloud software-as-a-service (22%). This is despite the fact that many technologists moved on from talking about these as trends years ago, and are now exploring the strategic use of innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins, and conversational systems.
Applied AI, advanced machine learning, and intelligent things made the 'Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017' published by Gartner, yet the Epicor research suggests users are even less comfortable with these terms than cloud and big data. Around one-in-three, for example, admitted they are unfamiliar with the Internet of things (29%), 3D printing (32%) and machine learning (34%) and many had never heard of these innovations at all.
A prolific amount of jargon in the fast-changing technology world might account for the fact that so many business professionals are unfamiliar with the key innovations affecting their sector, as they happen, despite recognising the important role technology has to play in business.
Although they find the jargon baffling, business professionals do recognise the importance of technology investments for driving the growth of their businesses. The same research found that 88% of fast-growing businesses consider IT investment to be a high priority, compared to just 41% of businesses experiencing weak growth. In addition, half (47%) agree that IT will help their organisations overcome future challenges in the market, work more efficiently (38%) and plan better (33%).
"It appears that many businesses are convinced of the importance of technology investments - and many are reaping the rewards. Yet some are not fully aware of the latest technologies available to them, and it's possible that the complex terminology and fast-changing landscape could be factors here," said Celia Fleischaker, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Epicor Software. "This is concerning because if business leaders cannot tell their AI from their IOT, or see the potential of a smart and connected factory, they may hold back from investing in the latest technologies. Businesses are tired of being baffled by buzzwords and jargon and we believe that it is time vendors and the technology community did more to engage with distributors, manufacturers or retailers in their own language. Talking about the business benefits that new technology can bring will help organisations to make critical decisions for the future."
John Preiditsch, president at Six S Partners, said, "The customers we work with on a day-to-day basis are more concerned with the business outcomes of the technology we sell, rather than the precise details of the technology itself. Businesses need to justify every investment in new technology, and talking in jargon or technical terms can put decision-makers off and make that justification challenging when there is a disparity over language. During my last 30 years in the ERP market - 10 years as an Epicor value-added ERP reseller partner - I've found that talking the language of business and about the impact and payback of the investment, rather than the language of AI, IOT or technical terminology, is much more effective when it comes to helping our customers fully embrace and envision the use of the latest technologies."
The research, conducted by Morar Consulting on behalf of Epicor, questioned 2 450 business decision-makers and employees in businesses in 12 countries across the globe, about their growth performance in the last 12 months. For further information on the research, go to http://ow.ly/sD6q309fJ5J
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 Source: Smarter With Gartner, "Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017," by Kasey Panetta, 18 October 2016