Monday, November 23, 2009

Names are for people, pets and imaginary friends

For some time there has been a trend whereby companies name their internal projects or methodology, as if operational acts command the creation of an interesting sobriquet in order to effectively communicate its importance to the organization. Projects named with an underlying technology erode corporate identity in favor of a third party product. Even more confusing is when those underlying technologies change yet retain the original project name. Similarly, naming corporate methodology or processes gives rise to corporate in-speak and leads to confusion by clients not, “in the know.”

I understand the intention behind naming projects, I've heard many of the arguments - it's a cheap form of branding, it provides an umbrella for troops to rally under, it is different and therefore exciting for folks participating. But I don't agree. I have never known craftsmen to get excited about their tools, but I know plenty that get excited about the work itself. The customer. The product. The service. This is where the focus should be, not on names.

After spending several years working on named corporate initiatives, I see they are lightning rods for derision, cynicism, cause confusion and fail to communicate benefits. Overly idealistic names (the “People Plan”) cause the scope of efforts to expand unchecked. That last example began in 2006 and continues today, encompassing pretty much anything people do at work. Sub-committees have been created to handle every possible permutation, though none of this effort correlates to increases in sales or improved product offerings.

Rather than branding projects, emphasis and effort should be directed towards effectively distilling and communicating the project benefits. For those projects that benefit customers, this information can then be shared concisely. At no time should methodologies be named or shared with clients.

What has your experience with project & methodology naming been?

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