Thursday, May 24, 2012

Architecture and a Boy Named Sue

My Daddy left home when I was three,
He didn't leave much, my ma and me,
This old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.

Now I don't blame him 'cause he run and hid,
But the meanest thing that he ever did,
is before he left,
he went and named me Sue.
- Johnny Cash

I'm going to guess that Johnny Cash's metaphorical father was an Architect as he understood the critical role a name plays in the life of a person (or a song, a function, or anything).

I return again to the topic of naming, and how a name is the single most important element of understanding you ascribe to anything you create. For this post, I'll focus on the names we give our projects.

We recently engaged Gartner for direction and counsel on a number of topics and one of their pieces of wisdom was that we should take more care in the names our business-aligned technology teams (MIS) give their projects. This is excellent advice!

We are constantly challenged to demonstrate the value that IT provides to the business. This is not a flaw in the system, as business needs to- and should challenge all aspects of their operations to ensure they are getting adequate value from all of the resources.

But we have a tendency to name our projects according to the importance the projects has to us, rather than our customers. This is a missed opportunity. Consider these IT project names:

  1. EOL Server Refresh
  2. XYZ Baseline Support
  3. Resource Availability Computation
  4. Transaction Management Phase II

Trust me, I've seen worse. I’ve seen project names so obtuse, that even with a 255 character description field I still couldn’t figure out what it was. How about "Exacerbate malevolence retrieval" - a project to implement predictive caching, or as the customer would understand it, "Improve Application Speed by Anticipating User Selections."

The four projects above could be better named as follows:

  1. Update Aging Servers with High Speed & Capacity Replacements
  2. Rapid Response & Preventative Maintenance of Customer Reporting Application
  3. Create Instance Product Availability Graph
  4. Priority Transaction Management Features and Functions for 2012

Take a look at your list of project names and begin to think about this coming budget season. How can you improve the names of your project for next season so that your customers can more easily see the value you provide?

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