Father of EFM
On Father's Day, it seems appropriate that I should tell a story about my dad, especially because it gives me a chance to set the record straight. A new customer of ours recently told me that when he received a demo from one of our competitors, the sales person had told him that they had coined the term EFM to describe the market. I had to laugh out loud. For you see, my dad coined the acronym EFM, meaning "enterprise feedback management".
Carl Henning is now a technology evangelist for PROFIBUS field-bus technology, and is a noted field-bus blogger, but in early 2004 he had joined our company to help us grow our international business. He had most recently been the managing director of a Canadian software company. We were thrilled to get the chance to leverage his enterprise-software experience, as we were in the middle of transforming Perseus Development Corp. into an enterprise vendor. We were adapting our flagship product to the Web, and I had been charged with coming up with a name for it.
"Enterprise Feedback Management" mentions in the news
I looked at the major enterprise vendors, the companies we were emulating, and saw that they gave their products glamorous names like SAS/EIS, Oracle OLAP and PeopleSoft SCM. The only problem was that we didn't have a TLA (Three-Letter Acronym) for our industry! That's when it hit me that we were in fact not just creating a new product but we were pioneering a new application category.
We hadn't approached the problem as one of porting our client-server software to the Web, of simply moving from on-premise to on-demand software. Based on extensive customer feedback, we were transforming the product to take advantage of the capabilities the Web offered. Our customers were telling us that they needed to centrally manage survey research, which was scattered throughout the organization. They told us that they needed to set up permissions and workflow so that people throughout their enterprise could participate in the research process as appropriate, some writing questionnaires, some sending out invitations, some only looking at reports and dashboards. Without central management, key customers and key resellers were being oversurveyed, similar surveys were being fielded, and privacy and security policies weren't being followed. Clearly, there were enough emerging needs here for a whole new class of software.
When I said that I wanted to name this industry and then name the product after it, my coworkers thought I was crazy. But I pointed out that where once we had been one of the two first dedicated web-survey software applications (with Raosoft EZSurvey), now there were over 300 survey tools. We wanted to separate ourselves from the pack. I finally won my coworkers over, and we invited submissions from across the company for acronyms. Here are the 46 terms we came up with, including CRM as a point of comparison:
||Acquisition of ConstituentKnowledge
||Automated Feedback Project
||Answer Management System
||Acquisition of SpecificKnowledge
||Centralized ConstituencyActionable Knowledge
||Customer Feedback Management
||Centralization of RespondentAnalysis
||Centralized Respondent KnowledgeManagement
||Enterprise Customer Feedback
||Enterprise Respondent System
||Enterprise Survey Planning
||Enterprise Survey System
||Ecosystem Value Measurement
||Feedback Knowledge Management
||Feedback Project Automation
||Feedback Project Solution
||Feedback Quality Management
||Feedback Survey Project
||Organized Feedback Management
||Organized Survey Management
||Panoramic Survey Measurement
||Panoramic Survey Research
||Panoramic Value Measurement
||Response Knowledge Management
||Research Resource Planning
||Respondent Value Measurement
||Survey Knowledge Management
||Survey Research Planning/SurveyResource Planning
||Target-group Acquisition ofSpecific Knowledge
||Total Feedback Management
||Web Survey Automation
The Google hits and ads were important, because, sadly, there is a finite supply of TLAs. Just 17,576 in fact! And many of them already had common meanings.
My favorite of the ones I submitted was TFM, Total Feedback Management, patterned after Total Quality Management. But all my coworkers loved my dad's suggestion of EFM, and so that's what we went with.
It's one thing to coin a phrase, but it is quite another to give it currency.
Once we had the term, we also began pitching it to the handful of our traditional competitors: companies that like us were shifting to the enterprise market. Why? Well, one product doesn't make an industry. "A rising tide lifts all boats." We especially worked on convincing SPSS to use the term EFM, as the only public company in our space at that time, and we were thrilled when they became one of the first to adopt it.
I always laugh when I stumble across a new survey web site, and they claim to be a "market leader". Last time I checked, market leaders were companies that were actually copied by their competitors. Here's a list of competitors who followed our first public use of EFM back on May 25, 2004:
|June 6, 2005
|June 27, 2005
|August 3, 2005
|March 8, 2006
|May 3, 2006
|May 8, 2006
|May 16, 2006
|September 7, 2006
|July 17, 2007
|September 25, 2007
|February 13, 2008
|March 11, 2008
|March 12, 2008
When we introduced Perseus SurveySolutions/EFM (we had decided Perseus/EFM was too bold a departure for us, and we would get there in steps), there were 0 results in Google for "enterprise feedback management". Today, there are at least fourteen vendors using the term EFM to describe their systems, and Google returns 54,600 hits on "enterprise feedback management". So I'd like to point out that, while I may be the father of EFM, my father is the one who named it. Good work, Dad! Happy Father's Day!