Somerset County Council has formally recorded as one of its business challenges the task of understanding the use of jargon and acronyms by IBM, its partner on a £400m outsourcing contract.
In September 2007, the county council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Avon and Somerset Constabulary formed with IBM a joint venture company, SouthWest One. IBM is the majority shareholder.
Now the county council's Audit and Resources sub-committee has published a paper on early successes of the joint venture and the challenges facing the authority in monitoring SouthWest One.
One of the challenges is listed as: "Plain English - our new partner has a challenge to consider in reducing jargon and explaining acronyms which are in common use within IBM."
No specifics are mentioned but IBM's association with jargon and acronyms dates back decades. There is a dictionary of "IBM Jargon and General Computing" which is in its 10th edition, issued from IBM UK Laboratories in Hampshire. Many of the definitions are technical, but not all. A "stretch target" is defined as a "goal that probably is impossible" as in: "We're setting stretch targets next year".
Members of a council's audit committee could find it hard to grasp quickly some of the language used in IBM's literature.
For example IBM's online publication "Infrastructure considerations for service-oriented architecture" warns that SOA adoption introduces new and unforeseen challenges with security integration, including "...multiple security credentials, such as Kerberos, Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML)", the "Web services security and Resource Access Control Facility (RACF)", and "multiple protocols, including SOAP, HTTP, HTTP over the Secure Sockets Layer (HTTPS), Java Message Service (JMS) and Message Queuing (MQ)".
IBM employees are said to have a language of their own.
However Somerset County Council has far more praise for IBM than criticism. It says of the ethos of staff at IBM and its subcontractor Mouchel Parkman that they are "always attentive and enthusiastic and have a 'Can Do' attitude taking personal responsibility for resolving issues and urgent service requests".