For the past year, I’ve been venting and lamenting about documents with inconsiderate names -- names that are centric to the sender, not to the recipients. This totally violates the principle of LEAN communications -- the importance of thinking about your customers and their needs and adding value to them.
My angst started when I received several documents with bad names in a three-day period. The first was when a Fortune 500’s Creative Media department renamed a PowerPoint file “Hammer presentation.PDF” in advance of sending it to Dr. Michael Hammer for his review. How useful is that, especially when he’s requested presentations from all 12 speakers? (Several months later, Dr. Hammer returned the favor, sending us a file named “Clorox.com.” And this is the man who has led the process movement that advocates customer-centric work!) Second, I ordered tickets online from Alcatraz, yes the former prison that’s now the national park. I soon received a PDF file simply named “tickets. PDF.” How helpful is that, especially more than a month later when I need to find the file and print out the tickets? Then one of the speakers at Ragan’s Corporate Communicators Conference week sent interested audience members the PowerPoint deck he used, named “Ragan.PDF.” How distinct is that?
Whenever you’re naming computer files, consider who you’re sharing them with. It’s not about you; it’s about your customer. Put yourselves in their shoes and use names that are meaningful to them.
You not only make life easier for them, but you also save yourself some from possible obliteration. A few years ago, I conducted an agency search for PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company). We asked five firms to submit proposals electronically. Two of the firms (40 percent) sent me files named “PGE.com.” I renamed the files, rather than copying over them, which prevented these contenders from being immediately eliminated from consideration.
I had thought my campaign against self-centered names was getting some traction. For instance, last week, without any warning, a wonderfully descriptively named document -- or so I thought -- appeared in my inbox attached to an e-mail message: 041008marketing.com. Then it hit me. This was an IT-prepared file for the marketing department. It wasn’t going to be very easy for the marketing department to know what it was, other than when they received it. Alas...
Now I’m beginning to wonder. Is this bad file naming all about me after all? Are people out to get me, a la the old movie Gaslight? As I started to write this, my lawyer’s assistant sent me an invoice named “Connect Consulting. PDF,” which totally confused me. Are badly-named computer documents becoming a deliberate devious method to convince trusting people that they are going mad... being "gaslighted" into believing something other than the truth?