When I was a young chap I wanted to be called Troy? What a strange name to pull out of the hat at the age of nine! However it was entirely based on one of the lead characters from Stingray, and I was easily influenced! Some names we are given and some names we choose, in recent weeks we have been challenged, and quite rightly, on the names of two of our major systems that have been deployed; the Open Data Platform and the AppCentre. Reflecting on the challenges that had been made and how we came to the decision for the names of the systems prompted me to think about naming in the context of all that we do in our business.

The moniker Open Data Platform (ODP) was put in place for a number of reasons.  To us the platform is the first time we have opened up our data from speciality to specialty and from contracted organisation to organisation so it made sense. Also, the ODP term is about a mind set change and moving towards opening up our data to as wider audience as feasibly possible. Over 80% of our data is truly open data; anyone can interrogate it and understand what academic led research is going on where in the UK.

Is a name a brand or a sign post for what the solution is though? With ODP it has become a brand, a brand of a strategy that has a series of applications and tools associated to it. The correct challenge though of ODP has been that not only is it our brand but it also references some amazing work going on globally to truly open up data all over the world and as we have yet to open up our data we are perhaps perverting the name. However with good intention, we will get to the true meaning of ODP in the next year, but with the support of all our partners and in a way that does not expose information in a risky way.

The AppCentre also came under scrutiny, what is an App was the main thrust of this. The common parlance I guess is the Apple definition, a piece of software that you download and becomes part of your tool box.

The obligatory Wikipedia reference is:

‘An App, short for mobile application or just app, is application software designed to run on smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices.’

The issue that was levelled against the name for our AppCentre is that some of the ‘Apps’ are simply the application layer for the ODP and are not items you download to your own systems. However the AppCentre does enable access to all of the Business Intelligence systems we are deploying, and in the case of so many Appsthat are now available they often are no more than skins and pointers to the web site, and so many of our Apps are exactly this.

The decision as to whether we need to change the name of these systems now needs considering. Re-branding systems is always difficult, both of these systems have a good degree of user adoption and therefore the effort that will need to go into the promotion of a new name will not be insignificant.

As part of the restructuring of our organisation my directorate is changing its name to reference the functions that it delivers. Moving from the Informatics directorate to the Knowledge and Information functional area is an exciting change and will make it easier for people external to the team to know what we do. But back to the title of this blog, ‘What is in a name?’  The difference that changing the name can make should really only be about the ease of understanding and not a marketing ploy. It always confused me when the Marathon chocolate bar became the Snickers, no change to ‘functionality’ or to delivery but it did make it easier to understand what it ‘did’ globally as Marathon was a very UK centric moniker for the chocolate bar.

Once you start to look into this idea you realise quickly how the industry has renamed itself so many times, you can ‘age’ colleagues by the phrase they use to reference the team that manages technology; are we IT, ICT, IS, Networks and Systems, Informatics and now Knowledge and Information. The fact that, for a while at least, the old name sticks shows we need to do a more complete job of spreading the word too.