Technology and distributed work environments are making businesses and startups operate on a global scale. With the advent of new channels of communication, a crucial challenge that remains is the need to communicate and be precisely understood by your own teams within the organization. Many global enterprises are recognizing and addressing this need with a standardized ‘Business Glossary’ as a single authoritative source for industry and business terms that ultimately ease up business communication.
The importance of setting up a standardized business glossary that ensures uniformity and accuracy while offering semantic accountability and consistency cannot be stressed enough. However, the true success of any business glossary lies in how well the industry-relevant concepts and business terms are defined, structured, their co-relations captured and standardized across the organization.
Standardized Business Terms: Why is it so hard?
On the face of it, setting up a business glossary while also defining its business terms seems like a cut and dried task similar to building a quick reference guide where end users discover and easily understand data. On the contrary, building a good business glossary can be an incredibly time-consuming and costly affair; especially since it goes beyond simple cataloging with a limited ability to capture base functions and their relationships with other business terms.
Here are 3 main reasons why most business glossaries under-perform:
- Lack of proper documentation: The purpose of building a business glossary gets defeated if there are no standards and an all-pervasive documentation process in place. Clear documentation of all relevant business terms will help avoid miscommunication, business errors, and malpractices.
- Lack of standard definitions: With globalization, it has become necessary to have standard definitions that are globally accepted. Lack of standardization will lead to questioning the veracity of your data as well as your organization’s integrity.
- Usage of ambiguous terminologies: Different departments within the same organization may use different definitions and terminologies. Many business services can have deceptively similar meanings while there are instances where the same thing could be identified by different names. Some businesses continue to use outdated terminologies which are no more relevant and useful. All these are classic cases that can lead to confusion, disagreements, and despair.
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Often, different business units and departments across an enterprise are dependent on a single data source. Therefore, it becomes imperative for a solution that not only leverages this shared knowledge but efficiently assimilates the multitude of data assets lying across various mission-critical systems, reports & processes and organizes it into a simple, easily digestible format that meets every line of business’ objectives. Many a time, the inherent complexities of a business or its industry domain make this easier said than done.
So how does one get it right?
Define standards to author business terms and definitions, with well-defined rules and naming conventions. It may not be the revolutionary answer one may be expecting, but its relevance remains as important as ever.
Standardization as a process is critical for bringing in consensus among multiple business units and users. The goal of standardization is to arrive at a consistent and uniform business language across the enterprise. With standards in place, enterprises can identify and eliminate bottlenecks improving data operational efficiencies. A compliance and enforcement process will go a long way to ensure the consistent application of business terms as new data requirements and projects surface. The usefulness of business glossary and standards can be gauged by having continuous feedback mechanism practices backed with an effective communication plan.
Business Terms Standards:
One of the key objectives of having a standardized process in creating business terms is to ensure that the requirements in an organization are defined at the minutest level of detail with great precision and using industry-accepted business terminologies.
One can start by building on available information, creating categories and hierarchies, defining custom attributes and properties (and) assigning data stewards to each asset category.
A well-designed classification system is an intrinsic requirement for a business glossary that has:
- High data integrity: Data integrity is a direct measure of the ability of an organization to maintain its data in a reliable, validated and accurate state. The data governance system ensures the accountability of shared business vocabulary and taxonomy for the usage of consistent definitions at an enterprise level.
- Well-constructed standards and rules: All business terms are specified in a clear, articulated and contextualized manner to prevent confusion and circumvent costly errors that otherwise can have an adverse impact on business reputation. As your organization matures, one must also consider defining data quality standards and rules so there is no room for misrepresentation of business terms.
- Clearly-defined business terms: Identify the vital business terms, meanings and definitions, along with semantic clarity to help align with the language of the business. An important aspect of this process is also to identify the right data stewards and subject matter experts who can develop, refine and champion the project.
Such a system will help set the standards for a process to define, reconcile, harmonize, qualify, approve and maintain shared business terminologies and appropriate business definitions. Once the business terms are perfected, one can enlist various stakeholders across the organization to collaboratively agree on terminologies, definitions, rules, and policies. Faster adoption of such standards depends on how well the business glossary is positioned with management buy-in and accessibility to every user in the organization. Enterprise-wide access to the business glossary will allow all the stakeholders to achieve a common understanding of standard business terms and acceptance of a uniform enterprise vocabulary.
What’s in a name? Everything! The way you organize and name your enterprise data will have a huge impact on your ability to retrieve and understand it. While adopting a well-structured naming convention helps in accuracy and consistency; keeping data well-organized ensures availability, accessibility, and integrity of your information.
Building a robust and credible business glossary could be one of the most challenging projects any organization can undertake. However, a good partner who understands your business and industry domain can offer a consistent program experience along with a simplified engagement model, making this process a lot easier.
Global markets, though highly competitive and volatile, are getting consolidated while customer patterns are largely converging across countries. A well-designed and robust business glossary will support the standardization of communication within the connected chain of all your business entities – both internal and external to the organization. This depends on the time and resources that are invested in business terms standardization, naming conventions along with perfecting of an enterprise-wide vocabulary. It is plain knowledge that a well-structured business glossary can help bring transparency and consistency across business functions and more importantly increase trust and confidence in your enterprise.