Remember PSA, Professional Services Automation? It was the latest in a series of service phrases that are quickly bandied about by acronym. It was a term that seemed to vanish just as quickly as it was dubbed the next great thing.

Technology spins out terms and acronyms at such a rapid rate that an important part of a trade editor’s job is acronym acquisition. It’s not only confusing—increasingly, it’s hard not to adopt the view that terms are not necessary. They are not concepts that we must master, they are products somebody wants the market to buy.

Phrases emerge with the thought processes at the nation’s great consulting research firms such as the Gartner Group and International Corp., and hey, these folks have to make money like the rest of us. One of the ways they bring in the cash is by selling reports to vendors in the markets that these firms study.

Research is a politically dangerous game. Bashing a product from a vendor is not the norm. Firms don’t often issue reports that say, “This product sets a new low for quality in a market whose potential for growth we have significantly over estimated constantly for years. If anybody ever make this a viable market, it sure isn’t going to be these guys.” No, what usually hits print is, “Worldwide Technology Associates has set a new standard in a market whose potential remains unrealized.”

Criticizing a major vendor that is the target for selling additional research is about as smart as when General Custer proclaimed, “I think we’ll look for a few Indians to practice our fighting capabilities.”

These reports from the Lake Woebegon school of criticism (all the children are above average) cannot get stale. What’s the best way to justify selling new reports? New information and new information looks better if it’s carrying a new name. Thus PSA is hardly for sale as a research comment.

Research firms can’t keep talking about last year’s concepts anymore than a daily news paper city editor can say, “Nothing much happened today. Let’s just re-use a lot of yesterday’s news.

So accounting software gives birth to enterprise research planning, and customer research management begat, which begat, and so on in Biblical procession until the marketplace of ideas is saturated.

And of course, no matter how many TLAs are mastered by any participant in the technology market, at the next conference, someone will rattle off a string of exotic terms and greet questioners with the “You don’t know what THAT means?” look.

And everyone works hard to internalize the concept. And buys another report.

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