What’s In A Name – Or Do I Mean Acronym?

Whether of dubious intent, or a CEO, people all have their own industry jargon. (Often infuriatingly so!) Some acronyms will be TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms), others may be two, or four (or more) characters long. Some may be Redundant Acronyms, where one or more letters is superfluous. ‘PIN number’ is a good example. (Personal Identification Number) ‘Number’ is contained within the acronym but still quoted in addition. er go, ‘N’ is ‘redundant’.

Within IT we are renowned for acronyms, sometimes even forming company names with them. IT, meaning information Technology, has recently been referred to as ICT. (Information & Computer Technology). Who ‘invented’ ICT, and when? I don’t know – nor do I care one jot. To me it is commonly known as IT and that’s that!)

Listen up reader. This now gets complicated. (That voice was your own, and inside your head as you read this.)

I worked with someone whose ‘TLA recognition and use’ gene was corrupt. To them, DM (Document Management) meant Document Control. The letters do not even match? They also thought IM (Information Management) was the same as IT. They had a degree, so in theory at least, were not inherently stupid. Why was this phenomenon occurring? Misconception, ignorance, bad experience(s), poor education – delete as applicable.

The language experts state that if a grammatical phrase, or certain word(s), are used long enough in a certain context, over time they are accepted and adopted as standard. Stop it, or our industries will become even more confusing. So IT is IT and not IM, DM is DM and not DC, DC is DC and not DM etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

But, I hear you ask, (I have very good hearing,) what does this mean in the spectrum of computer technology, documentation, change management, and lets throw in records management (RM)?

School time. Venn loved diagrams even more than Ada Lovelace and Florence Nightingale. Venn invented the Venn Diagram. We hated them at school right? Food is a big circle with Fruit a smaller circle within. Within Fruit there is Tomato. (Look it up.) Within Herb, there is Banana. (Look it up if you are not a Minion and/or you don’t believe me.) A Fruit cannot be Herb as well. This is classification. Eggs is Eggs. (Even although Eggs may also belong to a set called Ovals.)

Venn, great guy, good with diagrams, liked to define ‘stuff’ in a graphical way, and all very helpful. One of his biggest innovations was to allow overlapping circles, but only if there truly was crossover. Think 4×4/SUV. (Oops! He slips in another TLA.) Those vehicles are Transport, and 4×4. They may also be Hybrids, Diesel, Pickup, Coupe, all of which are Transport. Suddenly Venns are confusing as they try to overlap or keep separate where need be. IT IS THE SAME WITH IT. No, that was not an acronym – I was shouting.

To me, and feel free to not argue if you disagree, IT and IM are two main, overlapping circles, both within an overarching circle I have deliberately not named. (That is for you to decide. Not enough space here for THAT debate.)

Within IT you have the ‘technological’ bits of metal, silicon and wiring. They allow us to read this article, either as 1’s and 0’s, or off a dead tree. Within IM are the things you need to manage electronic or dead tree information. The clue is in the word ‘Management’.

Within IT you have computers. (Yes – really!) Also included will be the cloud, and how that magic all hangs together, with data, web, and database servers, and scanners for documents, barcodes, eyeballs, bodies, and even tricorders. (How did that get in there?) Within IM you have DC, DM, RM, others. Note: No mention of ERP, BMS, (a very good one to throw into the mix,) BPR, EDM, CMS, etc., and for good reason. They are systems or processes, overlapping with IT and IM, with IM as the human-machine interface, and IT as the tracks and hardware on which IM runs.

Depending on your job, station in life, aspirations, etc., you may not know all of the preceding TLA’s. BMS means different things to different people. (In the same manner as a hamster living in a cage in the family utility room. Dad hates it. Mum ends up cleaning the cage. Kids love to play with it. Cat sees it as dinner!) BMS, or Business Management System(s) can be a system in its own right, but to some it is also a means of referring to ALL of the multiple systems used by all business units. In effect, everything that allows an organisation to do business.

Not helpful, but definitely food for thought and the basis for measured argument/debate.

The author is a Document Management Consultant based in Scotland who says no hamsters were harmed in the writing of this thedmcolaborators blog. Find out about his company here.

John is also the Sub-Editor of Content Management publication IDMi, which has been informing people about the sector since 1969


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