The Slog – a realistic picture of the journey toward a fully functioning glossary

Mark Atkins, Intraversed


The Glossary Slog

With all the energy and refreshed outlook we often bring when we return to work in January, it’s easy to begin setting goals, schedules and timelines for the year ahead with a slightly unrealistic set of eyes.

Unrealistic eyes set unachievable goals, over-commit schedules and lead to perpetual amendments to timelines. This can not only result in poor levels of achievement by the end of the year, including burnout and other stress-related health issues, but they can also disillusion staff, create a culture of negativity and make us look bad to the managers to whom we made commitments about those goals.

When it comes to establishing a glossary, it’s no different. Unrealistic goals create a greater risk of failure, poor quality and staff disinterest over time.

There’s no escaping the truth: it’s a slog.

A client of ours recently used this term to describe what she foresaw in 2021, in terms of their work to get their glossary goals met. And I have to say, we all nodded and agreed.

Intraversed is committed to supporting clients in the establishment of their glossaries, and the quality IM landscapes that glossaries underpin, because we absolutely believe it’s beneficial for the business and to the experience of the staff working for that business.

We want businesses to deliver the best possible environments for their employees, and one element of that is ensuring staff have access to what they need to succeed. We believe that statement so much, we made a tag line out of it!

But we do not give clients a falsely optimistic notion of ease or speed of the process.

It takes time and effort and investment. Much like any project.
(Though your glossary and IM landscape aren’t actually projects, they’re BAU activities…but that’s the content of another blog, you can read it here)

In our experience, from the point you begin working to establish an organisation-wide business glossary, what we call the establishment phase, to the point where that glossary is established and populated enough to effectively provide returns to the organisation (which is not completion of the glossary build but simply the accomplishment of the establishment phase, which is first and biggest phase) clients should allow approximately 12-18 months.

The length of this phase is dependent on:

  • The number of stakeholders involved in the initial build team.

  • The amount of time team members are able and willing to commit to this work.

  • The budget secured by the business champion.

  • The quality and breadth of existing glossaries.

  • The IM and language skills of the team managing the build.

  • The ability of staff to effectively identify relevant stakeholders and engage them in input and approvals.

  • The extent to which language is not aligned throughout the organisation.

It’s also our experience that most businesses over-estimate the time staff have available to give this work, the quality of existing definitions and the ease with which staff will reach understanding and agreement of definitions.

It’s precisely because the establishment phase is such a slog that we created tools we think make it as easy as possible, and as quick as possible, to create quality definitions that are consistently formatted and can be effectively reviewed and approved. Having these tools in place before you begin can make a big difference in the long run.

On a more positive note, here’s the experience of our most productive client, which may give you some hope:

Our clients engaged us to assist them with the initial phase, the Establishment Phase, which took approximately 6 months, with just sixty terms in their glossary. Fifty-five percent of these were defined sufficiently to address significant business issues. We assured them this was a solid outcome.

They then moved into phase two, the Embed and Grow Phase, which involved a few distinct iterations as they expanded the functional areas covered in their glossary. This phase involves further building glossary content and maintaining existing content, and can last several years, depending on the resources allocated to the activities.

After a further 15 months (which included approximately 6 months of no activity while the business restructured), this client now has more than a thousand terms in their glossary, with definitions either approved or ready for approval.

What’s important to note is that after their initial engagement with us to assist with the Establishment Phase, the ongoing work has been largely managed by just one dedicated staff member, along with a little help from their friends (us).

They’re well placed to transition to the ongoing Measure and Maintain Phase once they complete their glossary build. In that phase they’ll continue active maintenance of the glossary content, conduct periodic reviews, adapt the glossary to business and language changes and through the implementation of new systems etc. Again, while this phase is the end goal, it is, in fact, not an end at all, but a BAU activity.

It’s encouraging to know that after the initial establishment phase, things get a LOT easier, faster and require less staff time overall.

If a glossary is on your radar for 2021, take heart. A realistic timeline is key to the successful mindset that will get you to the end of the slog!

Need help in your initial establishment phase?

That’s why Intraversed exist. Why not contact us and we’ll set up a Zoom appointment to discuss whether our products and education services might be helpful for you and your team. Contact us here.

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Mark Atkins, Intraversed

Mark Atkins

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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