03 January 2014

Techies talking gobbledegook

On 3 January, Gillian Tett signed an FT article entitled Beware techies talking gobbledegook.

When the computing expert presented his plans, everyone on the board waved them through – except for Dennis, who declared that he would not approve the plans since he had “not understood a word the computer expert had said … [The project] was delivered using the baffling gobbledegook that many computer geeks use,” he explains.
A stand-off ensued until his fellow board members eventually admitted that they had not really understood the project either and demanded the computing experts translate their plans into plain English.
I posted the following comment:
One problem is that procurement processes focus too much attention on price, price, price; another that they fail to identify in advance criteria for analytical rigour, attention to user (as opposed to backoffice) needs and tests among other considerations.
It's also interesting to note that few if any procurement teams (let alone boards) use the quality and clarity of the bid documents they receive, beginning with executive summary and the main technical overviews, as selection criteria in their own right.
Technical translators are frequently requested to do rush translations of rush drafts of bid documents that clearly reveal poor bid process planning, sloppy analysis, unclear explanations and insufficient attention to either user of backoffice needs. Some bidders even outsource bid drafting and translation tasks through Dutch auction sites. Procurement staff aware of the state of the art capabilities in technical writing and translation can read a great deal between the lines of any bid. 

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