Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel

Leopoldo Mitre – August 7, 2016

Imagine that you work in a place where everyone speaks different languages. What a mess that would be! Business Consultants work as needs-translators; they speak a business language that is common to all.


Do you remember that biblical passage that speaks of a cosmopolitan city where people decided to build a tower so high that they could reach the sky and challenge God? In that passage, God punished the men forcing them to speak different languages, causing serious communication troubles and consequently, problems in the construction. This, as stated in the biblical book, was the origin of all languages that exist in the world nowadays.

Beyond the religious theme, imagine for a moment that we had to communicate with people who speak different languages. What a mess that would be! All using different words to refer to the same things. Could we be able to carry out complex tasks? I think that would be very difficult. To avoid this case people share common codes that can serve as a bridge of communication between them. This basic principle is the cornerstone for teamwork and therefore for any project.

Once in Germany I needed to withdraw money from an ATM. After I inserted my card I realized that the words in the screen weren’t familiar to me, I felt trapped! I knew I had few minutes after the ATM swallow my card and with that, my hope to sleep comfortable that night. I followed my instinct and press a few buttons. Almost magically I got my money and my card.

This experience certainly can’t be compared to the suffering that the builders of the Tower of Babel might have felt trying to build something magnificent without understanding each other. But it is likely to resemble what does the financier feel when “the system” does not give him the information needed or when the technology department fails to understand what he really needs.

Business Consultants work as needs-translators; they speak a business language that is common to all and help the different areas of a company to understand each other.

The stories of horror that commonly happen in projects, such as the implementation of new information systems, software or processes, are liked to two causes: they arise from the lack of understanding of business problems and they lack clarity in explaining the solutions from the beginning. In an implementation of Business Information Systems it is priority to speak a language for the senior management and for the rest of the company, rather than just focusing on the computer/ system language per se.

If we do not ensure that the supplier we have hired to carry out our project speaks the same business language that we do, we can be sure that we will be building a tower that is destined to collapse, as happened to Babel.