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BO or BOBJ: A Rose by Any Other Name Would Not Smell as Sweet

What’s In a Name?

Would you name your baby Beatrice Ann Davis? How about Peter Isaac Gray?

Hopefully you’d notice the initials in time to avoid saddling your offspring with an unfortunate monogram, like BAD or PIG. Names and acronyms are important considerations for babies and companies, alike. Sometime, organizations fail to recognize the message they are sending, as in the case of the Iowa Department on Aging (DOA). Other times, they are at the mercy of evolving language. Consider, for example, the World Taekwondo Federation, established in 1973, long before the digital age gave WTF a new meaning. Language differences also come into play, as Business Objects learned the hard way.


A Name That Stinks

Business Objects was founded in 1990 by two Frenchmen, Bernard Liautaud and Denis Payre. (Watch Denis Payre explain the origin of Business Objects.) According to Denis, who now sits on the 360Suite board of directors, it made perfect sense in France to shorten the company name to BO. But in 1994, Business Objects expanded globally and went public on the NASDAQ in the USA, where BO stands for “body odor.”

The unfortunate acronym was a boon for clever marketers. Before Business Objects bought Crystal Decisions for $820 million in 2003, there was intense competition between the two companies. The Crystal Decisions marketing team distributed bars of soap to employees with a label that read, “Let’s wash the BO away.” Similarly, before IBM bought COGNOS for $4.9 billion in 2007, at least one DBA was spotted wearing a t-shirt that read, “Do you have BO? Use COGNOS!”

Odor Free in Two Letters

To avoid the problem of customers and competitors claiming that “Business Objects stinks,” the most successful BI tool in the world changed its acronym from BO to BOBJ. Although still commonly known as BO in France, most of the world quickly adopted the new acronym. In Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Juliet justifies her love for Romeo with the famous line: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” We all know how that turned out. The moral of the story is to choose your words–and your acronyms–wisely, and always refer to Business Objects as BOBJ.

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