On renaming.

St Petersburg has had several name changes in its 300 years or so of existence, being known as St Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad and then back to St Petersburg. Czars, revolutionaries, dictators and democrats have all left their mark on maps, signs, history books and now navigation systems throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union. In South Africa several cities, roads, school, airports and national teams have had name changes, and rightly so.  However renaming a city or a road is not to be undertaken lightly. It causes confusion, creates costs and stirs up emotions. Names are important.

Take the case of  the newly named Archer’s Road. (via the Guardian)

A street in Sheffield that has been the butt of jokes for many years has finally won a battle to change its name to something less … behind the times.

Residents of Butt Hole Road long ago stopped seeing the funny side of the legions of titterers taking pictures of themselves with their pants down next to the road’s sign. After clubbing together to raise the £300 necessary to pay for a new sign, the local council has agreed to name the road Archers Way, in honour of its half-mile proximity to Conisbrough Castle.

There are many cases when a change in name makes good sense.

But why is it that some software companies keep changing their product names every few years? Do they understand and care about the pain, irritation and cost it inflicts on their customers?  Who exactly do they think they are helping other than the brochure department? Do they realise the vast forests of systems documentation that are made obsolete? The hours wasted doing find and replace in Powerpoints, and worse in the application code itself? The helpdesk and partner confusion?  The environmental impact alone of a large vendor changing product names is material. I wonder if I could plug that into a carbon footprint calculator? I bet it would be equivalent to a few jumbo jets or negate the impact of a newly minted LEED compliant building.

I’m beginning to think that we need to start referring to such applications as the application formerly known as…and…and before that….and before that….and originally. When road names change and country names change for the public good, it is normally because the people living there demand a change. I don’t know about you, but I’m not seeing lots of enterprise software customers clamouring for the renaming of the systems. Most of them still call them by the original names anyway.