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Why technology is gobbledygook to air cargo

Why technology is gobbledygook to air cargo

GOBBLEDYGOOK is an English word, which describes language that is meaningless, or is made unintelligible, by the excessive use of jargon, or other technical terms.

It is also the primary reason why so many air cargo industry executives are running scared of the spectre of the digitization of their business processes.

They simply don’t understand a word of it.

Here’s a simple test: If you can work out what this paragraph (below) actually means – it appears on a company’s website in a message which was sent to aircargoeye.com via LinkedIn – then you are probably not an air cargo manager:

‘Combining our unmatched publishing knowledge, global operations and customer support with our suite of commercial applications, content management platforms, advertising software and content services, we offer the industry’s only full spectrum of solutions to help publishers move their content forward.’

Thought so. None the wiser, writes Nigel Tomkins.

Managers of so many small- and medium-sized airfreight businesses simply cannot and will not grasp the jargon-strewn gobbledygook which is increasingly spewed at them by an IT industry that is universally incapable, it seems, of clearly and simply explaining either itself or its products.

Put simply, and in a language that all parties should be able to understand, the tech industry is grossly non-user-friendly and the result of this mismatch is a virus where the blind are led into an ever darkening, shrinking workplace.

It means that converting a ‘traditional’ air cargo business into a tech-driven enterprise is like single-handedly erecting a flat-pack wardrobe – using instructions translated into Farsi from Mandarin.

On the one hand is the tech industry, which consistently fails miserably to communicate its message effectively – because this requires simple, easy-to-understand, layman’s explanations of the business benefits and the costs of digitization – and, on the other, freight forwarders, say – who are undoubtedly well blessed in all things cargo and logistics – but who have not the faintest idea how to join the technology revolution, or deal with its unhelpful language.

It’s why so many of them are running for their lives – away from the prospect of paying for the privilege of being dragged into the unknown. An experienced freight forwarder, airline or cargo handler knows how to deliver a shipment from Timbuktu to Toronto – but may not know how to encrypt sensitive data files.

Over the last 10 years, the new vocabulary which has sprung up from the global technology revolution is one that many 10-year old children might easily take in their stride, but some air cargo industry personnel just switch off when confronted by buzzwords like artificial intelligence, neural networks, big data, internet of things, bitcoin, HTML, blockchain, digital detox, micro service architecture, quantum computing, actionable analytics. . . and so on.

Insightful organisations can take advantage of new opportunities

Algorithm? It’s a word used by programmers when they don’t know how to explain what they do.

But with the cyber world changing rapidly with each passing month and year, not paying attention to this new lexicon makes it easy to fall behind the times (and the market) – thus allowing lesser competitors to beat you to the punch.

The solution? Keeping abreast of current changes – at least at a level of basic understanding. How many airfreight companies are capable of doing that? Only the big players probably – some notable, enlightened airlines, forwarders and ground handlers like Panalpina, K + N, Lufthansa Cargo, Changi, WFS et al – are employing properly rewarded and motivated in-house technology professionals. Some of them are even board directors.

These insightful organisations are able to take advantage of new opportunities in the logistics market that slower competitors either can’t see, or are unable to act upon quickly enough.

It’s becoming a big problem. Customers are already starting to differentiate air cargo suppliers by their IT installations, their cyber capabilities, their human technology credentials and their associated expertise.

The next question is: where will these air cargo-friendly, plain-speaking tech people come from? There are plenty of IT university-educated specialists out there, but how many of them will be attracted to the airfreight industry? And how many will be able ‘sell’ their messages to convince a Luddite boss? Can these people learn how to communicate effectively to their target market? Were they ever taught how to put their message across without resorting to gobbledygook?

Crazy as it may seem, the majority of tech firms haven’t yet worked out how to speak in plain language to prospective customers, in particular to that section of the air cargo industry that may not know the difference between online data and online dating.

For easy evidence of this, just take a general look at tech firms’ websites. Study their gobbledygook language and then do the following: make an appointment with a psychiatrist. At the very least, recognize that if you don’t understand the buzzwords these specialists and other people are regularly using in conversation, it’s impossible to look smart while participating in that dialogue, let alone having a grasp of what it all actually means.

“This communication gap between the technology industry and everyone else exists in so many industries and I suspect the air cargo industry is no different,” admits plain-speaking digital marketing specialist and website development manager Matt Janaway.

“Unfortunately, the majority of tech firms are made up of back-office, IT-educated experts, who know a lot about about their own subject – but not much about the real world,” he adds.

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