What's in a Name?

My parents wanted to call me Nolan.  Then they inadvertently decided to give me the same name as a footballer.  And so many years passed before the start of the ‘no, not the footballer’ statements and the obligatory ‘I bet you’ve heard that before’ whilst I try to produce a polite smile.

We give names to everything and the world of technology is no different – in fact it can get pretty ridiculous at times.  We go from Window 3.1 to Windows 95; through Windows ME (eugh!) to Windows 8.

Brand names are important and are either memorable and catchy (Windows Phone) or slightly less so (Microsoft Office Communication Server Phone Edition) or really don’t work (PublishIt).

We also have names for categories of things: Infrastructure, The Cloud, Enterprise Resource Planning (that one comes with its very own acronym, ERP) and so on.

We need these names to define what it is we are trying to do, but could this change in the future?  As Steve Cox says in this post, what will it look like in 2017?  Will we still use the same names?  Will we use names at all?

Our inherent need to label objects will mean that we will still have names for technology, but fundamental changes into how we consume technology for business will ultimately affect what we end up calling it.

Take what we now call CRM – Customer Relationship Management (okay, so there’s a whole other post about CRM/XRM).  I remember when this was called Salesforce Automation or Contact Management.  When it became CRM, the functionality changed, it broadened and it moved beyond an electronic rolodex.  In fact, I’m really not sure that the name does justice to what it can do for your business.

And when did double-entry book-keeping become ERP?

Technology moves fast, now faster than ever, and it’s easy to get lost in acronyms and names – it can become pretty disjointed and hard to tell your  APIs from your TPCs (check out this post ‘Never Mind the Buzzwords‘).

I tried to plot how my different applications interact with each other.  It wasn’t pretty:

The reason for some of the complication (not all of it – acronyms seem to appear just for the sake of it in the tech industry sometimes!) is that businesses have processes to follow and they always will do.  We use different technologies to help us follow those – for example, using CRM to help manage the sales process, and ERP to get the subsequent invoice out to the customer.

Add on marketing software for the Marketers to engage with customers and prospects, and a web shop that integrates with ERP.  All of a sudden you have an end-to-end, and hopefully seamless, technology solution.

In the future I believe there will be a shift in how we buy the technology that supports these processes, and in the long run it should become simpler for businesses: we will simply pick the components we need from a vendor’s suite of products.

We can do this already, but more and more, vendors will continue to acquire products that expand their stack (see Microsoft’s acquisition of MarketingPilot and Yammer, and Yahoo!’s drive to reinvent itself through acquisitions as examples).

Whole applications will then become items from an à la carte menu.  The things we need can be selected depending on their functionality, or perhaps their ability to be configured to fit the particular process.

It will make it possible to effectively buy ‘off the shelf’ yet still deliver a unique ‘system’ without the need for extensive customisation.

Alas, you can’t have it all – even this entire ‘habit’ has a name: application rationalisation.  It’s something I hear about more and more in my conversations with vendors or fellows in the tech world. (In this post by Mark Margolis, the term is used in a CRM/XRM context but, in my view, it really does apply to all areas).

Its name (or, inevitably, names) is secondary to the principle that technology is moving at a pace far faster than ever before, and the lean towards applications gives users a much better focus on particular functionality.

It’s an approach that puts the customer in a great position. Rather than buying a ‘product’, they will be able to specify the business challenge, process or objective they need to address and their IT partner will configure the best solution using the ideal mix of components and applications.

And it’s good news for TSG because we’ve worked hard to build strong relationships with vendors like Microsoft and others, and have a team of experts across all areas of the technology mix.