Business terminology vs. technical lingo


How many meetings have you been in where the technical personnel start talking about the database, sizing, storage, partitioning, indexes, staging, ETL, programs, operations or performance – and the business users in the group look perplexed?

When you're meeting or gathering requirements with business users, "techno lingo" can sure make them feel awkward. I choose to speak using business terminology, not tables. For example, sometimes I ask the business person to "tell me the story" of the enhancements or requirements for this specific project. This puts them at ease, and allows a dialogue to start. I usually do not allow technical people in the initial meetings with the business people, but may include a few later as the design progresses. The reason is, I do not want my business person to feel intimidated by the technical staff.

Here is an example: once I was at a client’s office, in a conference room with the business personnel. We were prioritizing requirements that we'd gathered a week earlier using a facilitated session in the same format. All of a sudden, the database administrator started talking and interjecting his opinion on which requirement should be completed first. All the business people just GOT QUIET and just stared blankly at each other. This put me in quite a predicament, especially since I was sitting next to the DBA. So I grabbed the meeting back by saying, “While the technical work for these requirements will be prioritized, we must first hear what the business thinks is the highest priority.” The DBA chose to be silent after that. MAYBE IT WAS THE WAY I LOOKED AT HIM! HAHAHA.


About Author

Joyce Norris-Montanari

President of DBTech Solutions, Inc

Joyce Norris-Montanari, CBIP-CDMP, is president of DBTech Solutions, Inc. Joyce advises clients on all aspects of architectural integration, business intelligence and data management. Joyce advises clients about technology, including tools like ETL, profiling, database, quality and metadata. Joyce speaks frequently at data warehouse conferences and is a contributor to several trade publications. She co-authored Data Warehousing and E-Business (Wiley & Sons) with William H. Inmon and others. Joyce has managed and implemented data integrations, data warehouses and operational data stores in industries like education, pharmaceutical, restaurants, telecommunications, government, health care, financial, oil and gas, insurance, research and development and retail. She can be reached at


  1. I find the tone of this article quite disrespectful and arrogant.

    Whereas we nearly always struggle to build connections and partnerships between the business community and IT colleagues, to close down anyone offering a point of view strikes me as poor form; to actively brag about it is being downright rude and unprofessional. (Even if intended as a tongue-in-cheek comment). This is how mistrust is built at a stroke.

    A facilitator's role is to engage the participation of the whole group, not to edit and censor the contribution of attendees.

    And rather than using "versus" to highlight differences, why not try using the word "with" and help to build closer relationships and better mutual understanding.


    • Joyce Norris-Montana on


      I am so sorry this disappointed you and upset you... Wasn't meant to be that way. The technical input is ALWAYS required because they are the ones that know where every 'gotcha' lives. I like to review the business prioritized list of requirements with the IT staff (database, lead developers and systems personnel).

      I will definitely pay more attention to my sense of humor in these blogs.

    • I say good job Joyce. I've sat through plenty of meetings with the arrogant techno-blabbers wishing the facilitator would take a stronger stance. It's the only way some of these people learn. I don't think you were being disrespectful - everyone understood what the problem was and it would only have made others uncomfortable if you had said "Speak English" or something like that.

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