Bankers have a hard time keeping up with the latest technology jargon. And we in the information systems business are never satisfied with labels from the past.
Since technology changes rapidly, so do our labels. I cannot explain why the term "facilities management" has evolved into the currently fashionable "out-sourcing."
In an attempt to help bankers understand our lexicon a bit better, I offer the following glossary of relatively new terms and some that are just confusing.
To compile the list, I first collected all the words that clients have asked me to define.
Then I went over my technical trade journals from the past two months (22 issues in all) and selected words that I thought were new and might be confusing.
This is what I came up with:
Architecture: The grand scheme or nature of a system. Examples are database architecture, client/server architecture, PC-based architecture, or integrated architecture. A synonym for architecture is design.
ATM (the one bankers understand): automated teller machine.
ATM (the one techies understand): asynchronous transfer mode, the next generation beyond local area networks.
Case: Computer-aided software engineering. Case tools are used by programmers to reduce the amount of original code normally required to build a system. Software developers use the Case tools, not users.
CIO: Chief information officer. The intent of this title is to upgrade the position of the person who is in charge of the information systems organization. It replaces "data processing manager," "magement information systems director," and if you go back to the 1950s, "tab room supervisor."
Client/server technology: A new term but closely allied to an earlier term, distributed processing. The server is designed to be the host system or the central system. The client refers to the user. The processing functions are allocated to each element of the system according to logical criteria.
In other words, the server manages the generic functions for the whole organization. The server can be a mainframe, a mini or a large PC. Each user handles his or her proprietary functions, typically on a PC.
This technology has gained great popularity because it gives each user greater control of the process and the data without the burden of having to worry about system maintenance.
Downsizing. Commonly used to denote a transition from mainframes to smaller systems such as minicomputers and PCs.
EDI: Electronic data interchange. The transfer of paper-based processing to electronic processing. Examples include purchasing. billing, and receivables activities. A cousin of electronic funds transfer (EFT).
Enterprise: The word is used to imply a broader coverage of information system activities throughout the entire organization.
For example, enterprise computing, enterprise data, and enterprise networks. Some vendors have adopted this term as part of their brand names to give their products a boost. Enterprise is an "in" word these days.
Facilities management: A term invented in the early 1960s and replaced with the modem term outsourcing. In facilities management, a contractor took over an existing data processing operation and ran it for the bank.
If one were to look for a distinction between this and outsourcing, it might be found in the fact that facilities management implies the whole information-systems function, whereas outsourcing could apply to pieces of the whole. Facilities management and outsourcing are frequently used interchangeably.
Groupware: Software that is shared by several people. The Lotus software called Notes is an example of groupware.
GUI: Graphical user interface. The use of symbols and icons to facilitate commands. Microsoft Windows is an example of a GUI, as is the Macintosh architecture.
Intelligent: The use of the word "intelligent" preceding a noun in the context of an information-system function means computer logic is used. For example, an intelligent terminal is usually a PC-based terminal, as opposed that simply serves as an input and inquiry device.
The intelligent terminal can process data. An intelligent proof machine is one that encodes but also performs the services of a reader/sorter. A dumb proof machine simply encodes.
IS: Information systems. This seems to be the preferred acronym these days to identify anything having to do with automation and computers.
It replaces some terms that are considered obsolete, such as DP (data processing), MIS (management information systems), and EDP (electronic data processing). A new one will come along in a few years.
Multimedia: The integration of audio, video, and data devices usually designed around a PC.
Neural network: A model designed to mimic the way the brain works. Neural networks are used by Wall Street firms to predict market prices by detecting patterns in what was once thought to be random data. The largest banks with the most advanced technology use neural networks to predict credit card fraud.
Open systems: A term used to reflect broad connectivity of different brands of software and hardware. Unix is considered an Open-systems architecture.
Outsourcing: A term invented in 1989 as a result of the landmark contract among Kodak, IBM, Digital Equipment Corp., and what was then Businessland. Outsourcing means the farming out operation of a piece or the whole of information systems resources to a contractor.
Platform: The hardware and operating system on which applications run. The term is used by systems people and should not be confused with platform automation.
Platform automation: A banker's term for the use of technology in handling customer service on-line. Examples include setting up new accounts, producing disclosure documentation, posting activity, changing demographic data, and requesting credit-bureau report.
Reengineering: The process whereby old methods are abandoned in favor of new techniques. Or, the process of starting over with a blank sheet,of paper.
RISC: Reduced instruction set computing. A chip technology that enhances the power of basic hardware instructions, thus reducing the number of instructions required to perform a function. The result is an increase in processing speed. The IBM RS/6000 is a RISC-based system.
RSI: Repetitive stress injuries. An old term from the manufacturing industry that is appearing in information systems activities as a result of routine operations such as keyboard entry.
Service bureau processing: Computer processing done by a contractor and provided through a host facility as part of a multi-customer installation. This is similar to outsourcing except that outsourcing implies a one-on-one relationship that might even involve on-site contractor staff. Service bureaus generally serve banks under $500 million in assets, whereas outsourcing applies to larger banks.
Turnkey system: The resources required to install and operate an automated banking system, including software, hardware, training, conversion, support, maintenance, and enhancements.
Unix: An operating system that is somewhat independent of hardware brands. Unix is considered open-system architecture.
UPS: Uninterruptible power supply. An independent auxiliary system that eliminates or softens crashes caused by power failures. A UPS is expected to provide power long enough to allow for smooth operation through outages.