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Once upon a time I owned a feature called “Microsoft Business Solutions Customer Relationship Management 1.2 Sales for Outlook client”.  I liked to brag that my feature used every word ever.


 


It wasn’t always like this and it is no longer like this.  The browser based client has pretty much always just been called the ‘web client’ or ‘web app’ around here but the Outlook client has gone through a much more turbulent history.


 


1.0


When I first joined the team back in the dark ages of 2002, the Outlook client was referred to as the “rich client”.  Ironically, back in 1.0 the Outlook client was much less rich than the web client.  While it did have those nifty Outlook/offline features and did require that whole installation thing that usually leads to the ‘rich’ name, it only did Sales, no Service, no Reporting or any other areas, and there were random restrictions even within that, so we made a concerted effort to start calling it the “Outlook client”.  We spent months correcting each other, but it’s pretty much stuck since then.


 


Somewhere along the line, the official external term for the client became “Sales for Outlook”.  I’m still not sure where that came from and we never used/use it.  In fact, we were initially completely mystified (and are still occasionally confused) whenever people bandy about the “SFO” acronym.


 


A larger change came along soon before we shipped 1.0.  After years (for some, and months for me) of working on “Microsoft CRM”, suddenly we were working on “Microsoft Business Solutions CRM”.  Luckily, the full name only had to be used on first mention, but we still spent a bunch of time making changes throughout the UI.


 


1.2


So we shipped 1.0, and then we shipped 1.2 (a number I recall was briefly 1.1) which added the version number to the title which meant my feature was eleven words long.  Quite difficult to vanity-Google and commensurately un-rewarding.


 


3.0


When it came time for the third version of CRM (2.0 then 2005 then 3.0), Business Solutions was removed from our name, so things got simpler again.  However, my feature’s name needed an overhaul, because with the addition of some much extra functionality to the Outlook client, it was no longer just “Sales”.  (Our Technology Specialists spent a whole conference laughing at me as I corrected every mention of “Sales for Outlook”.)


 


We’d also added two flavours to the client – a version that included offline capabilities and one that didn’t – so we need naming to distinguish between the two.  Our internal codenames were based on the removal of a number of weighty components from the no-offline client, and were “Fat” and….well, let’s just call it “a trademarked name for a low-carb diet”.  Obviously, we couldn’t put those on the box.


 


We wanted names that would simplify the choice for users.  We wanted to make it clear that one was the best choice for a machine that always had a connection to the CRM server and the other was for a machine that sometimes needed to work disconnected.  “Online client” and “Offline client” are the obvious choices, but they aren’t accurate.  


Luckily, we have skilled and talented folk who think about words for a living and can guide PMs.  Renee Wesberry, Crystal Smithwick and I came up with “laptop” and “desktop”.  (Renee can even tell you why “desktop” is preferred to “workstation”.)  We were a bit worried that people would think that you could only install these types of clients on these types of machines, but figured the decision clarity made up for it.


 


The full 3.0 name ended up being “Microsoft CRM 3.0 client for Microsoft Office Outlook”.  (Yep, some new Office branding slipped in there too.)  The words “desktop” and “laptop” get shoved in if required.  “Microsoft CRM 3.0 desktop client for Microsoft Office Outlook” – just three too many syllables and one too few mentions of Spring or it could be a haiku.


 


Actually, those weren’t the full 3.0 names, because soon before we shipped (yet again), we became Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0. 🙂


Ilana Smith

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