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Jargon from the World of Technology Consulting

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Aaron Erickson, author of The Nomadic Developer, breaks through barriers by sharing some of the secret (and not-so-secret) jargon that he has encountered in technology consulting. Every consultant (and everyone who consults with consultants!) should be familiar with this terminology.
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In an effort to obscure what we say, so that no one outside our field can possibly understand us, technology consultants invent terminology that lets us distinguish the insiders from the outsiders. Or so an outsider might think when listening to one of our conversations! All kidding aside, it's a good idea to keep up with all the latest jargon, so you can understand exactly what someone means when he or she uses some of these ambiguous—and possibly misleading—terms.

These terms in this article are selected from Appendix B, "Consulting Lexicon," in my book The Nomadic Developer: Surviving and Thriving in the World of Technology Consulting, which defines a much larger list of jargon from the business of technology consulting.

Bench

The state of a consultant when he or she is not billing a client. While bench time can allow you to pick up new skills or get to work on cool internal projects, consultants shouldn't be on the bench for long, even in a well-run firm that can afford the occasional downtime.

At review time in nearly every consulting firm, utilization (the ratio of billing hours to overall hours) is a key performance measure on which your raise will be determined. Having a ton of bench time doesn't help your utilization percentage.

Being on the bench in a firm with declining sales is especially risky, as the amount of time from "hit the bench" to "layoff" usually contracts drastically.

The bench is also known as "the beach," "between projects," "consultant in transition," or "The clock is ticking."

Body Shop

Body Shop

A firm that provides people for money, without much discretion beyond what's claimed on a résumé. Most body shops don't really know the skills of their people beyond what's listed on the résumé and matched through keyword search. Rates are lower for a body shop because it's essentially just a recruiting operation and a temp agency that provides labor. Because technical capability is hard to assess (especially for recruiters, who generally lack a technical background), the quality of consultants from body shops ranges from highly variable to routinely very low.

'Come to Jesus' Meeting

'Come to Jesus' Meeting

A meeting where some hidden problem is finally revealed to a stakeholder, usually with an expectation of and bracing for something very bad to happen as a result. Such meetings tend to have a pre-meeting, a meeting to plan the pre-meeting, post-meetings, and all sorts of ceremony, due to the stakes involved. A "Come to Jesus" meeting is usually the result of some combination of "yes man," "vampire," and "faith-driven development" converging, with the inability to hide poor results any longer.

Documentation

Documentation

Rarely read stacks of paper, produced so that people can feel good about the actual product (software). Not all documentation is bad. There probably is a right level of documentation, somewhere between the developer nirvana of "no documentation" (after all, if the program was hard to write, it should be hard to understand) and the stereotypical pointy-haired boss (PHB) nirvana of three pages of documentation per line of code.

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