Nicknaming The System

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Her real name is "the channel management solution and cross-sales platform"-but you can call her "Crystal."

"Crystal is our big star," proclaimed Char Shinn, vice president of e-Business at First Technology Credit Union in Beaverton, Ore.

"Crystal" is the nickname that First Tech CU employees affectionately use for their marketing database, according to Shinn.

"The name 'Crystal Ball' came when we were trying to think of what to call a tool that can look at a member's past and present in order to predict the future," Shinn continued. "Crystal does just that-so the name stuck."

The $1.5-billion First Tech CU isn't alone-many credit unions get a little touchy-feely about their systems, favoring a personal nickname over a technical description. Perhaps for good reason-people may have a higher level of trust for technologies with personas, confirmed a 2003 Intel and MIT study Building Trust on the Internet.

At Wescom Credit Union, employees consult "Wes" about operational policy and procedures, hot topics, merger publications and marketing promotions, said Diane Garcia, senior technical communications specialist and creator of the "Ask Wes" knowledge database persona at the $3.1-billion Pasadena, Calif.-based credit union.

"Wes stands out from the other less than interesting policy and procedure manuals, which are boring and dry, and finally, simply attracts employee attention and leaves a mark in their minds," Garcia explained. "Wes is one site they can rely upon and trust."

As Wes has grown to include more information over the years, his image has also evolved, Garcia added. "He is now an older gentleman," she said.

At the $170-million Portland FCU in Michigan, members call LUCY, the audio response system. "Give LUCY a call and we're sure that you'll love her as much as we do!" promises the credit union's website.

Some credit union system nicknames are equally as affectionate, but are used more informally and less comprehensively. Joan Zazzaro, information technology manager at the $131-million TEG FCU in Poughkeepsie, NY, said she calls her core processing engine "Huey."

"I've always called it 'Huey,' just because it's a Hewlett Packard, but it also conjures up thoughts of cute, innocent, even benevolent, which you never think of computers as being," Zazzaro joked. "I like the sarcasm."

Not all nicknames are cute, however.

For instance, look out for "Nasty1" at March Community CU in Moreno Valley, Calif.

Nasty1 is the name for the new Linux (N)etwork (A)ttached (S)torage (T)echnolog(y) server at the $400-million CU, said Jerry Johnson, vice president of information technology. "From here all jokes become more or less unprintable," Johnson said. "I tease my team that I'm going to combine the Network Attached Storage technology with 'Special High Intensity Training.' "

Johnson, a self-confessed "hopeless romantic," laments what he perceives as the by-gone days of creative moniker-making in IT.

"An exotic and exciting name does impart a sense of fun and adventure into the IT discipline," he said. "It is so ironic to me that the old UNIX guys found great names to give their servers and software components, whereas newer companies often fail so miserably. For example, take Citrix's new 'Web Interface' for the MetaFrame server."

Corporate technology vendors usually avoid off-the-wall nicknames, agreed Fred Cook, chief information officer at the $1.7-billion North Shore CU in North Vancouver, Canada. "They tend to not want 'wacky' names describing their products, although I'm sure there have been wacky names used internally," Cook said.

Getting Descriptive

Nicknames at North Shore also tend to be more descriptive-and a little colder, it seems. The CU's business intelligence system is referred to as "ICE," or the Information Center of Excellence, and the Enterprise Content Management system is called JETstream.

"JETstream came from the idea that the system would be speeding and streamlining our content and business processes flow," Cook explained.

Judith Dugo of THE Credit Union of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Fla., joked that her IT department is responsible for the dour nomenclature at the $80-million CU.

"After asking our IT people about nicknames, I got no answer," Dugo said. "There's no humor in that area. Maybe it's just tech people, who knows?"

CUJ Resources

First Technology Credit Union:

March Community CU:

Portland FCU:


The Credit Union of Palm Beach County:

Wescom CU:

CUJ Resources:

For additional information on this story:

* First Technology Credit Union at

* March Community CU at

* Portland FCU at

* TEG FCU at

* The Credit Union of Palm Beach County at

* Wescom CU at

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