Fixing Broken IT Terminology

A user (or maybe that should be ‘Customer’, because the marketing policy says so?) calls IT Support because she has a problem with her computer. Except that she doesn’t have a Problem, because this is the first time this has happened, so it is an Incident. Except that because this user works for one of the UK’s emergency services, we can’t call it an Incident because that’s a reserved word on the business side.

However because it’s an Incident from an IT point of view, its priority ranks with that of an automated log submitted last night by a server, that a disc is reporting non-urgent errors. So should we treat it with urgency or not? Well surely yes, because the user cannot work. Unless the reason the user cannot work is because they have forgotten their password – but then a forgotten password, impact notwithstanding, is not an Incident, but a Request.

Dog’s Dinner

What an utter dog’s dinner. Who designed this nonsense? Its definitions conflict with one another, it gives different meanings to the same words inside IT and the real world, it separates us from our customers rather than aligns us with them. But most importantly, it is of no use whatsoever in helping us to prioritise and organise our workload. And that being the case, what the Dickens is conventional I.T terminology for?

A reconsideration of the IT Services lexicon, not least to cope with the specialist needs of IT Support, is long overdue. The simple truth is that as we strive to improve our services, the first thing we need is an accurate vocabulary. Imprecision is for amateurs.


It’s not just the inbuilt confusion of the de facto standard. It is also a question of scope. For example, different types of work require different skillsets, so proper definition becomes a prerequisite.


We still use the word ‘management’ for ‘process’, which itself is the very antithesis of management. In this way, conventional ITSM effectively diverts us from knowing what ‘management’ actually is. So it’s perhaps no wonder we tolerate the sad mismatch of senior technicians in managerial positions, when both they and we are misdirected from knowing better.

Then there’s the world of External Customer Support Management (ECSM), where channel providers have no official vernacular, due to that whole industry’s exclusion from the scope of a dominant ITSM. That needs addressing urgently, because that sector is growing at an alarming rate.


For too long now, users have had to put up with IT support with fix times numbering in days rather than minutes, persistent backlogs, reliance on individual specialists, and IT’s interior walls that ensure that our most technically talented staff can avoid conversation with their customers. Part of this is that most of us do not have the language we need to grow out of our everybody-just-do-your-best traditional reactivity. The terms we need to properly manage IT Support, in whichever department of IT it is generated, are simply not taught by convention.

To engineer a more professional future requires that we all know what we’re talking about. As things stand, that commonality evades us. Without a language to describe our situation, our perspective will remain limited.

Og the Caveman

Og. Confused.

Og the Caveman looked up at the night sky and saw stars. Over time, we learned that some of those lights are planets, while others are moons, comets, asteroids, galaxies; and those that really are stars are all suns. Now we can name our sky, we can compartmentalise it, create fields for specialisation, categorise objects in order of importance, formulate policy for learning more. Expanded, understood horizons beget further understanding.

It is in pursuit of this greater understanding, leading to growth and improvement, that I have compiled a glossary of terms specific to the field of IT Support. Og grew his understanding and no longer just sees stars. This glossary grows our understanding so we no longer just see demands we have to react to.

The Official MISD Glossary fills in the gaps and sorts out the confusion left by ITSM convention, going deeper and further into IT Support than ITSM ever could. In addressing these specialist concepts, it opens up new worlds such as man-management, second-line resource allocation, career advancement, external customer support, and multiple demand orchestration never before addressed in our industry’s much-flawed, inadequate, vocabularial legacy.

MISD Glossary

MISD Glossary Cover

This glossary is issued with all four qualifications in the ‘Mastering IT Support Delivery’ curriculum of certification in IT Support professionalism and method. But you don’t have have to attend the training to get your copy – you can download it for free. But I hope nonetheless that when you peruse this lexicon, you will see that IT Support done properly is complex, involved, and as about as far removed from ‘common sense’ as it gets’ As a result, you will want all your staff to get MISD qualified, for the opportunities it provides to escape ‘do-your-best’ reactivity and move to genuine IT support professionalism.

You can learn more about MISD here.

You can download your copy of the Official MISD IT Support Glossary, free of charge, from this link.