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If your job is building a glossary, but you're not a glossary expert, it can be overwhelming, hard and more than a little confusing.
And while it might be tempting to dream of outsourcing all that overwhelm, hard work and confusion to consultants, the truth is that to get your glossary right, the build needs to be driven by your business staff. And that requires a business champion at the helm (you).
However, getting support, education and mentoring in how to establish your glossary successfully, defining your business terms effectively, and maintain the energy sufficiently to see the build to completion, can put you at a huge advantage.
Glossary experts do exist.
And they are very much worth engaging.
Here's five reasons why.
If you're wondering where to start, how to start, who to engage, how to engage them and a million other questions, your glossary experts should have the answers. They should bring a wealth of wisdom learned from making all the mistakes so you don't have to.
Such things may include:
starting with governance and accountability, or nothing will actually get done
scheduling a series of workshops to begin, because the initial terms will take way more time and effort than you think
a standard process for determining which are the most useful and pressing terms to define first
internal communication material that can help you engage necessary definition writers and stakeholders from across the organisation
effective tools and techniques for categorising terms, writing definitions and reviewing/approving them
and so much more!
Great glossary builders and definition writers know how tricky core terms can be. They've run many workshops trying to define such terms (like customer, student, policy). These core terms are so essential to every functional area, they're both the most obvious things and the hardest to gain universal agreement on.
And therein lies the problem.
Having expert assistance to guide your workshop attendees through the thought process required to fully ensure the definition works for everyone, and every instance it needs to, can be incredibly helpful.
We know defining business terminology takes time - we've written before about setting realistic (read it here) targets - but derailing at the first few terms can undermine everything.
Let someone else do the heavy lifting and save your energy for maintaining the build down the line.
A well-built (and maintained) glossary can deliver a strong ROI for your business. We explained how in this blog (read it here).
When you hire definition writing experts, you're going to get the kinds of definitions that deliver that ROI.
And if your glossary experts are as good as they should be, they should be mentoring you and your core definition writing team in how to write a great definition too.
Definition writing isn't something that comes naturally to most people. That's because it's not just about finding a way to say what everyone already implicitly knows.
Effective definitions require a way of seeing and understanding language; identifying problem phrases, terms or punctuation; identifying when definitions lack vital points needed for clarity or include unnecessary noise; and then polishing those definitions to ensure they're succinct but complete.
Any consultant assisting with a glossary build who doesn't bring that kind of detail to their definition writing isn't worth what you're paying them.
You want your glossary build to result not only in the establishment of a glossary, but the continued expansion of its content, the life cycle review of all terms as part of ongoing maintenance, the ability to re-visit workshops when a glossary definition needs updating, and ongoing governance and reporting of the progress.
It's way more than just a set-and-forget project.
That's why you need to ensure you have a strong team of skilled business staff, who've been trained and mentored in being able to carry out these tasks. Without that investment in your people, the glossary will slowly slip out of sight and out of mind.
There are several areas education and mentoring should cover:
This is the information and understanding that fuels both the business need for a glossary and the necessity for really effective term definitions. It includes understanding the grammar, applying a methodology, achieving consistency, ensuring clarity, and the ability to see when a definition is incomplete or over-filled. It's all vital in attaining a glossary people actually find useful and easy to use.
Once you have that knowledge of the theory, you also need to practical skills to turn it into great definitions. So solid glossary building education must include the practical workshops and over-the-shoulder mentoring for your definition writers while they're growing their ability to apply theory to their writing.
It's not immediately obvious why governance of your glossary won't be straight forward. But the bigger your glossary becomes, the harder great governance is to manage - unless you've set yourself up for success at the beginning by establishing a solid governance community. Business term definitions need owners and responsible parties, they need hierarchies of accountability when issues arise or conflict over definitions can't be resolved. And for very practical reasons, these hierarchies need to be structured to match your business areas, with business staff engaged from the beginning. Having assistance in establishing this community can make your life easier and your governance more successful.
Once the initial, focused engagement with your glossary experts has been completed, will they continue to offer you and your team support and mentorship? Are they able to deliver “top-up” education classes for new staff or staff who’d like refresher lessons? Do they have a genuine desire to see your glossary succeed? And do they have other products and services which can assist in the expansion of your glossary, after it’s successfully established, to truly ensure your business gets maximum value out of its investment?
Don't ever sit down with a blank word document and a list of terms to define, expecting a clear, concise definition to just spill out onto the page.
A structured definition writing standard does exist (we know of one - ours) and it makes starting the writing so much more straight forward. Seriously.
With a structured definition method you'll know what you need to say first, then next, and then on from there. You'll have guidelines for the types of statements to write and the types of things you need to be writing about in each definition.
This is the true value of a glossary expert. They're not just glossary consultants. They're not just people who understand data governance. They're experienced glossary professionals who offer expertise in the nuances of definition writing that you and your team shouldn't be expected to know.
Intraversed offer our glossary expertise in several packages that tick all the boxes I’ve outlined here. And if you’re in need of assistance with your glossary establishment, writing definitions, definition writing education or glossary software, we’d love to talk to you about whether they’re right for your business. Contact us to discuss your needs and get a demo of the Intralign suite of software and education.
Mark is a co-founder & Chief Development Officer at Intraversed, helping organisations establish the Intralign Ecosystem, an award winning information management & governance methodology, to achieve reliable information, stable tech spend & greater IT project success.
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