Is ‘innovation’ this year’s ‘solution’?

02.22.2016

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When last week’s funky phrase becomes a corporate cliché, writing for technology can be a metaphorical minefield. Here our Senior Copywriter, Steve Moore, attempts to rescue ‘the Micro Focus word’ from buzzword bingo.

This post regards many of the words I use every day as clichés. That’s the nature of IT – the lexicon moves on as quickly as the technology. I have no problem with ditching many of the usual suspects, listed below. But as one of them underpins everything we do at Micro Focus, I must ringfence it – and fast.

Delivery, Passion and Solutions

Have you noticed how we all ‘deliver’ things now? What was once the exclusive domain of the postal service now also applies to most of the people reading this blog. Customers generally just download the software we make. Yet we must still deliver it. Go figure.

Remember when everyone had to be ‘passionate’ about what they did? Financial markets. Plumbing. Fish. This company is “passionate about roofing” when ‘adequately qualified and experienced’ would seem preferable. Not sure I want a passionate roofer prowling my property with a hammer.

Although satirical magazine Private Eye no longer runs a dedicated Solutions column, everything apparently still needs a solution. Shoelaces. Cricket. Wardrobes. Funeral Solutions apparently “know the industry from the ground up” when the bulk of their business is surely in the opposite direction.

What makes a cliché?

The problem with delivery, passion and solutions isn’t the word itself, but a lack of context around it. Too often, organisations spend buzzwords like cheap currency, believing they add value when the reverse is true. Overuse can reduce messaging to little more than a string of meaningless phrases.

These guys and these people are “passionate” about their “solutions” – notepaper and boilers, respectively – and this blogger spotted a van promising delivery, solutions and passion in one hit. Sounds good. But the solution being passionately delivered remains unclear. A lack of context is the problem.

Take ‘solution’. If I followed this blog and stopped using the word, describing the Micro Focus Mainframe Solutions would be problematic. But aside from the fact it’s a proper noun I can also contextualise the word by referencing the hundreds of customers who use it to resolve genuine business challenges. So it’s a solution, all right.

But as these words are banished to copywriting Palookaville, the marketplace, like nature, will fill the vacuum with something else. My fear is that ‘innovation’ is next. And that cannot stand.

Leave innovation in isolation

I’m just finishing off the Micro Focus Tone of Voice guide. We use plenty of verbs – especially ‘innovate’ – to describe our work. We cannot annex the word, because it feels different to all of us, but we can contextualise – and own – our version of it.

Innovation to most IT consumers is the next iPhone, Shazam, Cortana or any number of sexy, interactive products. Personally, I am still amazed at how Google Maps is digitizing the world and that’s practically old school.

The different flavours of innovation

But that isn’t innovation, Micro Focus style. Strategically and culturally we’re closer to this business directory definition; “In business, innovation is when ideas are applied to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers”.

So our innovative software enables our customers, many in the financial world, to innovate in their own way. Our version of innovation is retuning 20-year-old COBOL or PL/I to behave in a completely new way. It is giving long-established applications a flexibility the original coders couldn’t possibly have imagined, but our customers need to compete in a perpetually-evolving marketplace.

Micro Focus technology bridges old and new, unifying our customers’ IT investments with emerging technologies to achieve low-risk innovation and meet increasingly complex business demands.

What innovation means to us

Some find the idea of modernizing long-established applications pretty innovative. To other customers, innovation is creating a mobile banking app or moving from clunky green screen monitors to interactive interfaceswithout changing a line of code; plenty of Silk Performer users think that keeping the company website upright no matter how big the load is pretty remarkable, while other customers in other areas would point to being able to make sense of the data generated by 50m connected devices.

All these customers will remark that liberating developers to work on new and exciting products is innovative in itself. It’s all good innovation and makes us, indisputably, an innovative company. But only by taking the customer perspective can we contextualise the word and justify using it. The key is providing the meaning that saves innovation from being the next ‘solution’.

To some, innovation is a cliché. To Micro Focus it is simply a way of capturing the way we deliver products to fit a continually-evolving IT landscape in a single word.

And now I’ve got that off my chest, I’m off to enjoy a nice, cool glass of my favourite sobriety solution

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