The Acronymicon

Image created under a Creative Commons Attribution License using: Wordle

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” – Socrates

“The end of wisdom is the definition of acronyms.” – Jim Harris

The Acronymicon

The Necronomicon

The Necronomicon is a fictional grimoire (i.e., a textbook containing instructions on how to perform magic), which first appeared in the classic horror stories written by H. P. Lovecraft, and later appeared in other works, including some films, such as Army of Darkness, starring Bruce Campbell, which is one of my favorites—it’s a comedy and it’s highly recommended.

Therefore, the explanation for the rather unusual title of this blog post is that I could think of no better term to describe the fictional textbook containing instructions on how to discuss enterprise information initiatives by using acronyms, and only acronyms, other than:

The Acronymicon


Acronyms Gone Wild

For whatever reason, enterprise information initiatives (EIIs?)  have a great fondness for TLAs (two or three letter acronyms): ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), DW (Data Warehousing), BI (Business Intelligence), MDM (Master Data Management), DG (Data Governance), DQ (Data Quality), CDI (Customer Data Integration), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), PIM (Product Information Management), BPM (Business Process Management), and so many more—truly too many to list.

Additionally, we have apparently become so accustomed to TLAs, that we needed to take it to the next level with Acronyms 2.0 by starting the fun new trend of FLAs (four letter acronyms) such as software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), data as a service (DaaS), service oriented development of applications (SODA), and so many frakking more four letter acronyms.

I also have it on very good authority that by the end of this decade, the Semantic Web will deliver Acronyms 3.0 by creating an Ontology of Unambiguous Acronyms (OOUA), which will be written using a RDFS (Resource Description Framework Schema), in the FOAF (Friend of a Friend) vocabulary, which we will obviously query using SPARQL, which is itself a recursive acronym for SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language.



Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do appreciate how acronyms and other lexicons of terminology can be used as a convenient way of more efficiently discussing the complex concepts often underlying enterprise information initiatives. 

However, too often acronyms are used without ever being defined, which can lead to conversations like that scene in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam where Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams) responds to the overuse of military acronyms used by an officer in charge to describe an upcoming press conference by then former Vice President Richard Nixon with the question:

“Excuse me, sir.  Seeing as how the VP is such a VIP, shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT?  Because if it leaks to the VC, he could end up MIA, and then we’d all be put out in KP.”

An even worse offense than not defining what the acronym stands for, is only providing what it stands for as the definition. 

For example, when someone asks you the question “what is MDM?” and you respond by stating “Master Data Management,” that really doesn’t help all that much, does it?

Even when you use a better definition, such as the following one from the book Master Data Management by David Loshin:

“Master Data Management (MDM) incorporates business applications, information management methods, and data management tools to implement the policies, procedures, and infrastructures that support the capture, integration, and subsequent shared use of accurate, timely, consistent, and complete master data.”

This is only the beginning of a more detailed discussion, the specifics of which will vary based on your particular circumstances, including the unique corporate culture of your organization, which will greatly influence such things as how exactly the “policies, procedures, and infrastructures” are defined, and what “accurate, timely, consistent, and complete” actually mean.

For that matter, you shouldn’t even assume that everyone knows what you are referring to when you say “master data.”

My point is that you should always make sure that the key concepts of your enterprise information initiatives are clearly defined and in a language that everyone can understand.  I am not just talking about translating the techno-mumbojumbo, because even business-speak can sound more like business-babbling—and not just to the technical folks.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask questions or admit when you don’t know the answers.  Many costly mistakes can be made when people assume that others know (or pretend to know themselves) what acronyms and other terminology actually mean.


Instructions for using The Acronymicon

If you absolutely insist on using The Acronymicon to discuss enterprise information initiatives at your organization, please just remember that before you even open the book, you must first carefully recite the following words:

“Clatto Verata Nicto!”

No, wait—that’s not quite right.  I think it’s something more like, you must first carefully recite the following words:

“Klaatu Barada Nikto!” 

No, that doesn’t sound right either.  Somebody should just create an acronym for it—they’re much easier to recite and remember.


Related Posts

Podcast: Business Technology and Human-Speak

Not So Strange Case of Dr. Technology and Mr. Business

Podcast: Open Your Ears

Shut Your Mouth

Hailing Frequencies Open

The Game of Darts – An Allegory


Follow OCDQ

If you enjoyed this blog post, then please subscribe to OCDQ via my RSS feed, my E-mail updates, or Google Reader.

You can also follow OCDQ on Twitter, fan the Facebook page for OCDQ, and connect with me on LinkedIn.