Words Matter

Written February 5th, 2009 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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We’re going to try something a little different with today’s post.  I’ve asked our CTO, Adrian Zehnder, to start authoring posts about some of the key capabilities and features of our service.

Every time I try writing about something technical, I always get hate mail from Adrian about how I’m not being precise enough with my use of technical terms.  My solution is to not improve my writing, but to entice him into it.  So this is our first foray.  Let me (us) know what you think.  Even though he authored what follows, today I’m going to post it.  Tomorrow it will be Adrian’s job 🙂

Sam


Let me start with a riddle: what gets picked, packed, loaded, transported and finally arrives at the customer ? You probably thought “shipment”, but if you guessed “delivery” you must have been way too long in the SAP world 🙂

When I was in my first US project I quickly had to learn that a delivery is mainly what arrives at a customer, but definitely not what gets picked. But the translator of the original German “Lieferung” was deceived by it’s similarity to “delivery”. I even seem to remember an earlier translation with “delivery note”, which caused even more problems: what’s the paper and what’s the database record ? I don’t want to think about how many hours were wasted in the English-speaking world by the misunderstandings caused by this bad translation.

Anyway, why I’m talking about all this is because in the b2b service you have full control over the wording. Does “goods issued” sound too strange ? We’ll change it to “shipped”. You have a delivery block “Check free of ch.dlv”: why not spell it out to “Free of Charge Delivery Approval Block” ?  In fact, there are over 600 different terms, phrases and messages that your customers could see on our website.

We made some initial guesses at what sounds reasonable, so you won’t see anything like “Material 123 is not defined for sales org.US01, distr.chan.10, language EN”. Or your employees may be used to seeing “payer” in a credit memo and know that he’ll actually receive money, but your customers surely prefer to read “payee”.  We also welcome whatever language your customers speak.  English, British, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Chinese, etc….if you can translate it we can display it.

But YOU know your customers and their lingo best. So just invest some time to look at your b2b service with your customer’s eyes and tell us what we should change. So we’re able to deliver (yes, not ship 🙂 a service that doesn’t have your customers waste time at guessing what things mean.

Adrian