Business systems are the building blocks of success.
They save time and ensure all employees are singing from the same hymn sheet. These days, there are systems for everything, from filtering email to sharing ideas with your team. But without a business glossary for employees and stakeholders using these systems, it’s likely that things will get lost in translation.
Modern business relies on data. We collect data from numerous sources: online web traffic, email lists, surveys, and feedback are just a small selection of potential data sources. This data is hugely important. Use it to evaluate marketing campaigns, analyze your customer demographics, and more.
A business glossary is a big part of data analytics. It can also influence your business in many other ways. In this article, we are going to look at business glossaries and how to build them.
What is a Business Glossary?
A business glossary is a set of terms and phrases, much like a dictionary, but it is specific to your business. Think of it as a shared language that helps your employees and stakeholders work together seamlessly. Sometimes called a ‘data glossary’, a business glossary contextualizes and articulates common terms and phrases used in your business, so there is no confusion. It may also link to shared resources and assets, so people can quickly and easily find essential information.
Small businesses may start with a spreadsheet of common terms that everyone needs to be aware of. In time, this will likely grow into a larger resource, which helps stakeholders manage the relationships between different areas of the business.
The Benefits of a Business Glossary
There are numerous benefits of creating a business glossary for your organization. The most important reason for creating a business glossary is that it clarifies communication. Everyone will be speaking the same language, which saves time in meetings and paves the way for accurate data modeling.
Imagine the problems caused by inconsistencies in terminology and terms. Small differences can create a world of problems, especially in report writing. For example, say you have two departments working on different parts of a marketing campaign. One department refers to clients as clients, but the other calls them customers. The end result is confusing for everyone, not least your target audience. You can learn more about the consequences of data ambiguity and data standards in this article.
When there are significant misunderstandings, it causes many problems. People can’t find the information they need. They are forced to contact various individuals seeking clarification on information, or they end up wasting time searching through a huge pool of data for a few nuggets of information.
In IT, problems caused by misunderstandings and poor clarification of project scope are legion. When terminology is ambiguous and poorly defined, it soon leads to scope creep and missed deadlines, which in turn costs money. If a stakeholder and contractor have a different understanding of what a term means, there is no way that expectations can be met.
A business glossary is a major step forward to data governance and competency. It gives a business greater insight and control over data management, leading to more efficient collaboration. Whatever sector you work in, the benefits of this are obvious.
Different functional areas can work together more efficiently.
Reports are clearer.
Subject matter experts can be quickly identified, leading to greater efficiency across the board.
System-specific terminology is eliminated, which makes life easier when one system is upgraded to another.
How to Create a Business Glossary
In any large organization, there are small clusters of people working in separate communities. Well-known examples of communities include HR, Sales, Finance, and IT. Within these communities, there are individuals responsible for conversing across different departments. For example, HR will probably talk to Finance and IT when producing management reports.
These individuals are your starting point when producing a business glossary, as they are the people tasked with communicating and interpreting business terminology across the organization. If there are areas where confusion reigns, these people will be well aware of any issues.
Essential Features of a Business Glossary
There are some essential features that all businesses glossaries must have.
Firstly, it should be cost-effective. There is little point in having a business glossary if the cost of creating it outweighs any possible benefits it brings to the table.
It should also be easy to use. You need a glossary that is easily accessible to all stakeholders, both in the business, and external to the business, if appropriate. Make sure your business glossary is easy to update. That way, people will be more willing to add new information as and when required.
A business glossary needs to be accessible to multiple users, all of whom are free to make additions and changes. However, like Wikipedia, you also need editors to ensure information added is accurate and appropriate.
Any changes made to your business glossary must be auditable, otherwise information could become corrupted and you won’t be able to trace the culprit.
The structure of your business glossary needs to be logical. Make it easy for users to find the information they need. If a business glossary is hard to use, you are defeating the object of creating such a resource in the first place. Think of your business glossary as a library and use an intuitive classification system of data organization.
Ideally, a business glossary needs to be stored online, so it is accessible to everyone, irrespective of their location. However, it is helpful if information can be exported, so it can be processed elsewhere.
Make sure there is some kind of search function, so users can search for the information they need. If the glossary isn’t searchable, it will be difficult to use, which means it will rapidly become redundant!
Include hyperlinks to useful resources and related terms within the glossary, in the same way that Wikipedia contains numerous internal and external links.
In closing, a business glossary is a valuable tool in any organization. Make sure you create one as an integral part of your data governance initiative.