And the Winning Replacement is…Tools?

December 16, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: White Paper Writing 

tool.jpgBy now, TEC’s Sherry Fox and her Top 10 Most Ambitious White Paper Buzzwords has worked it’s way across the blogosphere quoted in a number of marketing-oriented blogs. And in an all too familiar lemming-like way that is often seen in the blogosphere, that list has been repeated over and over again with gospel-like acceptance.

Since that list was posted last week, this blog has been the only source to challenge the #1 word on that list, “solution“. In my post, I challenged Sherry to come up a one-word replacement for the word she seems to so vehemently despise.

What was her replacement word?

Tools. Tools? Yes Tools. Now there’s a creative replacement. (Did you hear the pin drop?)

My response to Sherry was quite simple. The word “Tools” has a special meaning to software developers, many of whom read white papers with frequent regularity. To a developer, a tool is a program or application that software developers use to create, debug, maintain, or otherwise support other programs and applications. The term usually refers to relatively simple programs that can be combined together to accomplish a task, much as one might use multiple hand tools to fix a physical object. Therefore things such as APIs are tools. COM or Corba objects are tools. Java is a tool.

Since the tech industry is the largest consumer of white papers, the issue of liberally replacing the word “tool” for “solution” in across a wide spectrum creates some inherent problems. For example, a business executive might see the words “network security solution” and “network security tool” as mutually synonomous. But a technical professional (such as an IT Director or CIO) that reads the very same paper will see the words ”network security tool” as a means to develop or debug network security functionality.

There’s an old expression that seems to fit here. “When you attempt to run headlong into making change for changes’ sake, make sure you don’t trip along the way and scrap both of your knees.” (Pundit’s third law of motion).

When you attempt to change a very valid and useful word for the sake of being fashionably unique, you need to make sure that the replacement you select satisfies that same need without creating additional confusion. God knows there’s far too much of that already within technical marketing circles.

P.S. – I’m still waiting for a valid one-word replacement for “solution“. Anyone care to offer one?

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    2 Responses to “And the Winning Replacement is…Tools?”
    1. Terri says:

      Tools?? I’ve been in IT for over 10 years and believe me, the solution is more than just tools. Tools generally represent the technology. The solution includes technology, processes, plans, strategies, resources, etc.

      Solution is and will remain a word in my white paper vocabulary!

    2. Amen Terri! You’re preaching to the choir!


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