Building an efficient business glossary on the strong foundation of standardized business terms and well-defined naming conventions
With collocation of teams becoming a thing of the past, the concept of distributed teams is becoming an integral way of functioning. An advantage of distributed teams is businesses can now operate without any geographical limitations. A crucial challenge is
the need to communicate and be coherently understood by everyone within the organization. Many global businesses are recognizing and addressing this need with the help of a standardized “Business Glossary” as a single authoritative source, which in turn will aid in a more effectual 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?
While setting up a business glossary with standardized business terms may seem to be an easy task, it is an incredibly time consuming and excruciating affair. It
goes beyond simple cataloging of business terms with a limited ability to capture base functions and their relationships with other business terms.
Here are 3 main reasons why most business glossary endeavors do not meet expectations:
- Lack of proper documentation: The purpose of building a business glossary gets defeated when 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 teams operating from across the globe, it has become necessary to have standard definitions that are widely 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. Some businesses continue to use outdated terminologies which are no longer relevant and useful. All these are classic cases that can lead to confusion, disagreements, and despair.
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 is not the most innovative answer one may be expecting to hear, but its relevance remains as important as ever.
Standardization as a process is critical for bringing in consensus amongst multiple business units and users. The goal of standardization is to define a consistent and uniform business language across the enterprise. With well-defined standards in place, enterprises can identify and eliminate bottlenecks improving data operational efficiencies.
A compliance and implementation 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 accuracy 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-defined classification system is an intrinsic requirement for a business glossary that has:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. A quicker acceptance 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.
Naming Conventions: 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 reliable 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.
A well-defined and robust business glossary will support the standardization of communication within the connected chain of all your business entities – both internal and external. This depends on the time and resources that are invested in the standardization of business terms, naming conventions along with perfecting of an enterprise-wide vocabulary.
Global markets, though highly competitive and volatile, are getting consolidated while customer patterns are largely converging across countries. 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.
Sowmya Tejha Kandregula, CDMP is an internationally recognized data management expert leading data governance/metadata management/data privacy/data security/data integration projects at businesses such as AstraZeneca, NBC Studios, Harvard University IT, Gilead Sciences, Royal Bank of Canada, DTCC, Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae, Cisco, COLT Telecommunications and Bank of America. Sowmya’s recent emphasis has been focusing on growing set of data demands including a changing landscape of privacy laws, increased movement of data onto the cloud, and a greater dependency on quality governed data for machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions.
Believing in the penchant – “knowledge sharing is the best way of learning”, Sowmya conducts seminars, webinars and training sessions for aspiring information management professionals on a pro bono basis. To date, Sowmya has mentored over 800 professionals across the globe.
Sowmya also serves on the advisory panel of various organizations, professional and non-profit associations. Most recently, Sowmya became an advisory board member at the Association for Data & Cyber Governance (https://adcg.org/advisory-board/) headquartered at Arlington, VA.