Tuesday, March 22, 2016

FAT means WHAT???? The use and misuse of acronyms
Alfred Richardson, VP R&R System Solutions
We have all been there.  Sitting in a meeting, reading a document, or writing a report ourselves and we use or hear an acronym. Acronyms can be misleading.  Why? Because your industry meaning may be different from the speaker, reader, or in the worst case, the client. (FAT = File Allocation Table) I have always considered the use of acronyms lazy, time wasting, and dangerous. As consultants we cannot assume the meaning of any acronym we read or hear.  We always ask for the definition to insure clarity. (FAT=Fluorescent Antibody Test)
Why do we consider it lazy?   Let’s look at the acronym TS for Test Set.  Really?  That saves 5 letters. Have you been in a meeting where the people seem to talk in acronyms?  You have no idea what they are saying.  Don’t worry, they don’t know either. (FAT=Fully Automatic Timing)
Why do we consider it time wasting? Take for example a new person on your team / project.  How much time is wasted trying to figure out what some or all of the acronyms mean?  It can take months for someone to come up to speed.  Why add to that? (FAT=Fatty Acid Transferase)
Why do we consider this dangerous?  When reading a specification, when bidding a proposal, when developing a program plan, it is easy to misinterpret the meaning of an acronym.  I am a hardware person so I will use FAT as an example. If you look to “Acronym Finder,” you will find 55 active meanings of FAT and 154 in the “Acronym Attic.”  (FAT = Flight Aptitude Test)  Now most of these do not apply in the development world but some do.  Does FAT mean?
1.       Factory Acceptance Test(ing) or
2.       First Article Test(ing) or
3.       Final Acceptance Test(ing) or
4.       Facility Acceptance Test or
5.       Field Acceptance Test or
6.       Functional Acceptance Test(ing) or
7.       ????

You see what I mean with just these six examples. I have had to halt a kick off meeting between a customer and their supplier because I knew they had different meanings for an acronym. You don’t need them, so don’t use them. Use words, not letters. Make a misread and it can cost you and your company big time. As a final thought, the fourth meaning of FAT by Acronym Finder is Faithful and True. Think about it!