IT professionals adore acronyms and shorthand. That's one of the reasons why normal people think IT pros are speaking a foreign language when we talk amongst ourselves. If you want to keep up with trends in IT management for 2008, familiarize yourself with this list of hot acronyms that your fellow IT pros are talking about.
Business Process Management is all about using technology to make business processes more efficient and less time consuming, and thus completing the same processes with fewer resources. In other words, it's about streamlining operations to save money. Many IT departments and IT service agents -- such as IBM -- are focusing on BPM as a way to transform the image of IT from a cost center to a value center.
A Configuration Management Database collects configuration data about the various pieces of an IT infrastructure and stores them in a unified repository that can be systematically analyzed and managed. In this system, the various pieces of data are called "configuration items" (CIs) and the goal is track changes to the CIs and to ultimately auto-discover new items. CMDB is a critical component of the ITIL framework, and it can be an extremely valuable asset for standardizing IT management.
Business Intelligence is a fancy name for the high-powered reports and dashboards that smart companies use to track the performance of their businesses. For example, my colleague Larry Dignan of ZDNet likes to say, "BI is the way you get ROI out of ERP." What he's getting at is that BI is what gives full value for the hard work of implementing an ERP or data warehousing project, because BI allows you to mine the data to better understand the trajectory of your company.
Master Data Management is the new buzzword for unifying data sources to provide a single, reliable source of information about customers, products, employees, and other assets. This may sound similar to data warehousing (DW), but it's actually bigger. While DW is mostly about unifying backend log files and tracking data in order to produce reports, MDM is about unifying critical business data that are typically live and dynamic, such as customer and product data.
Total cost of ownership is a phrase coined by the Gartner Group in 1987, and it has developed into a useful formula for arriving at the full costs involved in deploying and managing technology tools. TCO calculations provide assistance with product selection, because they are a valuable part of estimating return on investment (ROI). With tech budgets tightening in 2008, TCO and ROI will become even more critical in helping IT departments decide how to best spend their constrained budgets.
Service Oriented Architecture has a few distinguishing characteristics, but it's the same type of cloud computing that has been referred to as "Web services" and "Software as a Service" over the past decade. The difference with SOA is that it goes a step beyond cloud computing by breaking down software services into standard building blocks that can be re-used, distributed, and fed into other sites, programs, and projects.
Information Technology Infrastructure Library has evolved into a set of standards and best practices for organizing and running an IT department. Originally developed by the British government with inspiration from IBM, ITIL is now an international phenomenon and a hot commodity in the United States, where ITIL-trained professionals are in strong demand. ITILv3 was published in April 2007, and one of the most important revisions was a stronger alignment between IT and business -- another critical theme for IT in 2008.
Are these the hottest acronyms in IT right now? What other acronyms do you think should be on the list? Join the discussion.
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.