How to use a Business Term Glossary for all it’s Worth

Mark Atkins, Intraversed


How to use a Business Term Glossary for all it’s Worth

We’ve talked in the past about writing business term definitions that deliver an ROI on the cost of building your organisational business term glossary. You can read more on that here.

But great definitions alone won’t quite cut it.

To get the ROI you want, you’ve got to ensure your business is using your glossary for all it’s worth. That means maximising usage and usefulness so that your business information gets the benefit of all those great definitions.

Let’s unpack what we mean by using your glossary for all it’s worth.

Step One: Understand the Potential of your Glossary

How to use a Business Term Glossary for all it’s Worth

Most commonly, people undertake glossary work when the business is implementing a new IT build or project. The glossary is seen as a good first step in helping everyone understand what needs to go into the implementation in order to ensure program success.

And that’s a great reason to start a glossary.

But once the build no longer “needs” the glossary, the glossary often gets put on a virtual shelf somewhere and largely ignored.

That’s a fast track to zero ROI.

The real value of a glossary isn’t to support a particular build or project.

The glossary’s real value is that it can support organisation-wide communication.

Your glossary should be your organisation’s central tool for assisting different parts of your organisation to seamlessly work together. It can increase the quality and understanding of information produced and enable visibility over quality issues. And it can be a powerful tool for reducing the unseen risk of mis-derived, misused and misunderstood information.

When you see your glossary in this way, it’s clear that it should never be relegated to a virtual shelf. It’s real value is as a core piece of daily business process and function.

This is using a glossary for all it’s worth.

Step Two: How to Use your Glossary for all it’s worth

We see a glossary as have a central position in the organisation’s information management systems and processes. It’s a tool that all staff should have access to, and one that should be constantly promoted and referred to by organisational leaders.

It is a dynamic and active tool that can impact many parts of the organisation’s processes, and in so doing, it can impact the bottom line. A solid and measurable ROI on your glossary is possible and should be the goal for your glossary.

How to use a Business Term Glossary for all it’s Worth

There are several primary ways you can use a glossary for all it’s worth, though this list is by no means exhaustive.

  1. As the core glossary for each new IT build, project or implementation.
    If you calculate the cost of the definition work for your last few IT projects, what would it be? Imagine saving that cost simply because you have a central, organisation-wide glossary that has been mandated as the primary source of all definitions throughout the organisation. Each project may have new terms to define and add to the existing glossary, but once they’re included, they’ll not need defining again. How much would that save your business in the coming years?

  2. As a central communication tool for all staff.
    Outside of IT, staff are continually communicating across functional areas, especially those in senior leadership. Anywhere language is used to discuss business processes, metrics, outcomes, vision and goals, as well as in transfer of information and data from one area to another, the glossary should be the go-to tool, ensuring all staff, in all functional areas, use language consistently. This can save a lot of clarifying time, avoid the misuse or miscreation of data and reports, it can reduce risk of miscommunicating figures and outcomes both internally and externally, and all of this reduces potential financial burden on the company.

  3. As a gold mine for finding the root cause of reporting issues.
    If your business has ever faced a high-level reporting issue, chances are a lot of money has been spent trying to fix it. Very often, it doesn’t get fixed. Instead, work-arounds are put in place. A glossary, if created and maintained correctly, can be a tool that enables businesses to review how the information in reports has been understood, calculated and presented, and this can give a transparency over issues within the report like never before. We’ve seen the root cause of a reporting issue in a multinational telco come down to the misunderstood definition of a single term – and it had cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to fix, before our team did the definitional work around core terms that enabled the issue to be identified. A well-maintained glossary could have avoided that issue developing and the huge cost to the company in trying to resolve it.

  4. Your glossary should be part of a 1-2 punch to poor information quality.
    When your glossary is paired with an information artefact register, you can link each piece of significant information created in your business with the terms it references from the glossary. This allows staff to highlight when the artefact is not using a term consistently with the glossary definition. This can uncover poor quality, or explain it, in situations that otherwise may never have sparked questions over information quality. As well as avoiding potential misunderstanding or misreporting of information, a glossary-register combo can save business leaders from having to use poor quality information to make business decisions, giving the business a stronger business assurance.

  5. As an Information Governance & IM Tool.
    A great glossary (especially when paired with the information artefact register as mentioned above) can be an amazing enabler of information governance. A well-managed glossary naturally holds an accountability hierarchy over terms. This hierarchy should mirror real-world accountability over the activities that the terms represent. Governance teams can also use a glossary to determine what information needs governance. Government or regulatory reporting metrics (which should, themselves, be terms) can be linked to all other terms that feed those metrics, and an information governance “map” can be created, automatically linked to accountability.

These are just a few ways a glossary can had huge value to your organisation. If you’ve seen other ways to use a glossary for all it’s worth, why not share them over on our LinkedIn discussion thread.

Need some help setting up a glossary that you use for all it’s worth?

If you’re thinking that you could be getting more out of your existing glossary/glossaries, then we’d be happy to help you out with that. Use our contact form to let us know what about your current glossary use and how you’d like to see it change.

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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