What’s a business glossary and why do businesses need one? This post is going to lay it all out and provide the necessary information to see how a business glossary can help a business succeed. It will also provide some tips and tricks to make sure that businesses are getting the most they can out of their business glossary once they’ve implemented it.
What’s a business glossary anyway?
To put it simply, a business glossary is a list of key terms associated with a business and the definitions of those terms. Sounds easy enough, right?
Here’s the tricky part. In order to create a strong and functional business glossary, someone must first put in the work to make sure they know exactly what those terms mean in the context of their specific business.
Words have fluid meanings, and businesses can’t be certain that two people are using the same word in the same way without formally codifying that meaning. That’s what a business glossary helps to do, but getting there may take untangling the ambiguities of how terms are currently used as well as negotiating who is using the term in the way that will officially move forward.
Why do businesses need a business glossary?
The simplest answer is that people can’t communicate clearly if they aren’t talking about the same things. If a business wants to make their data accessible, translatable, and shareable, they will need to make sure that people across departments and working on different tasks are all on the same page when it comes to how they talk about the business and its data.
What are the best practices?
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Once a business recognizes the need for a business glossary, it’s important to put some best practices into place to make sure what they have built is fully functional and accurate for the specific business needs. Here are some of the best practices businesses can adopt as they build a new glossary:
- Be thorough in its creation. Creating a business glossary takes a lot of work. A lot of people are using terminology through word-of-mouth, but it hasn’t been officially written down in any formal way. This is institutional knowledge, and it’s incredibly valuable, but it can be hard to pin down. Interview leaders in different departments and ask open-ended questions about their day-to-day operations. Pay attention to the terms they use as they refer to what they do. Ask follow up questions to make sure you understand exactly how and why they are using those terms.
- Look for conflicts. Chances are that as a business builds their business glossary they’re going to find conflicts. This is exactly why they’re building a glossary to begin with! Two different departments may use the same word to refer to completely different processes. This is the chance to remove the ambiguity. Assign new terms, clarify meanings, and get everyone on the same page.
- Create an ongoing plan. Your business glossary is going to change. The meaning of words shift as technology changes, employees cycle in and out, and the business grows. It’s important to update your glossary on a regular basis, but it is equally important that the maintenance process is centralized and communicated clearly across the business.
- Keep data processes in mind. The main function of a business glossary is to speed up the integration and automation of data into daily business practices. As businesses create glossaries, they should be intentional about defining terms based on the data they collect and use. Look at existing data sets and sources. Define who has access to what data in order to ensure security and clarity. Use the glossary as a roadmap to data optimization.
The inclusion of a business glossary is a way to make sure that everyone in a business is operating from the same level of understanding. When implemented well, a business glossary removes barriers to communication and formalizes institutional knowledge in a way that makes sure it can be passed down from year to year. Long-term business success starts with a strong foundation of data, and using data well starts with clear communication.
As Director of Enterprise Analytics, James helped Thomson Reuters establish data management capabilities and an enterprise-wide analytics competency.
Latest posts by James Nanscawen (see all)
- The Importance of Employee Empowerment - February 25, 2020
- Business Glossaries and Data Dictionaries: What’s the Difference and Why Should I Care? - February 18, 2020
- Best Practices for a Business Glossary - January 14, 2020