Various Methods of Adding Business Glossary Definitions

Various Methods of Adding Business Glossary Definitions

StockSnap_XBL8EKLLAK_manconcentrating_definitionmethods_BPA key goal of data governance is to increase data literacy and trust. And a business glossary is important in delivering this goal. But organizations have a challenge in updating the business glossary and getting people to use it. You do not want to document everything. You want to document enough that people get excited to use the business glossary, a content tipping point. You want to have a knowledge base with all business glossary definitions for the organization in one place. We suggest using a business glossary solution such as the Data Cookbook. This blog post will discuss the various methods to add business glossary definitions including import and manual creation.

Here are the various methods of adding business glossary definitions:

METHOD: Importing from other sources
When importing, someone at the organization will need to select the ones that are relevant to your organization. Here are the various possible import methods:

  • Import existing definitions that are available in the organization (spreadsheets). Ask every department what they use for a business glossary so that everyone speaks the same language.
  • Import definitions from a community such as the Data Cookbook community or from business organizations.  Perform web searches of business glossaries from similar organizations or associations that you deal with.
  • Import definitions from vendors such as your ERP or reporting vendors. Often vendors provide business glossaries (such as on their website) which can be imported.
  • Import definitions from reporting agencies. A possible source of definitions is reporting agencies that your organization communicates with.

METHOD: Determining the definitions necessary to be in the business glossary or critical reports that need to be documented
Manually enter this information into your business glossary tool, such as the Data Cookbook. Here is more on these methods:

  • Manually create definitions by committee, group discussions, data stewards or backlog that are determined to be necessary to define. We do not recommend working as a group on definitions as it is very inefficient. You get poor definitions because you are working hypothetically as opposed to working on an actual request. We suggest quickly coming up with the terms that need to be in the business glossary after the import options are pursued, assign them to a data steward who has the authority to post to the business glossary. And then changes can be suggested.
  • Manually create definitions from the top 20 existing critical reports. Document those reports to find all the data definitions in them. You can get both functional and technical definitions. This source will automatically situate your data elements within a context that is important to your environment. Select the critical reports in any given domain and look at the top row. Define these data elements and the context will help you with efficiency by grouping like data elements together. But after these critical reports are documented, we suggest using the Help Desk method approach mentioned below.

METHOD: Promote data model objects to the business glossary
An organization should look at its data warehouse and/or analytics that has a lot of calculation and logic. And then promote some key data model items to business glossary entries. The business glossary definition needs to be an agnostic definition. But looking at the technical definitions is a good way to find things that are out there so that a functional definition can be put into the business glossary.

METHOD: Using Help Desk, Customer Service, and Just-in-Time requests
The best glossaries continue to grow and change with requests from employees. Have a data request process in place along with data stewards who can handle these requests. Here are the various request methods:

  • Manually add definitions as you curate reports that are requested.
  • Manually add definitions as you create new reports that are requested.
  • Manually add definitions as you create data flow processes that are requested (new integrations).
  • Manually create definitions requested by new or existing employees.
  • Manually create definitions needed to define other definitions. As you do the requested items you will run into definitions that need further defining.

Here is an example of using the Help Desk, Customer Service, and Just-in-Time request approach to adding business glossary definitions:

  1. Betty receives an email alerting her to the worsening risk response score in the organization for the month of March that is reflected in a certain report. She is provided a link to the mentioned report. It requires urgent action on her part.
  2. When accessing this report, Betty sees a column called risk response score. She does not know what the email sender’s definition for the term risk response score. She would like to know how this score is calculated. It would be nice if she could pull up the term right from the report instead of finding the specific URL or specific document or logging into a business glossary solution. If the organization had the Data Cookbook in place she could click on the button in the report and review the information for this report if the definition existed. No searching and no logging in.  
  3. If Becky feels that this definition is not complete or not the correct definition, she can make a request for improvement or for a new definition. But what happens if the definition is not there? Becky can make the request to have it added, right there, from the actual report.
  4. Becky’s request is automatically sent to the appropriate person, Sam, the data steward, who has permission to handle the request.
  5. Sam can respond back to Becky with his response such as why the definition is correct, that a new definition is now available, or that the existing one has been updated.
  6. After Becky receives the reply, she gets the satisfaction that she contributed to the organization’s data literacy and her job (and others) is easier with the information she can access, search for, or request.

To recap, the Data Cookbook enables data users to view and contribute to their business glossary right inside their web apps and reports. Users would rather be spending time on their applications and reports than in a separate business glossary solution. An organization should make a business glossary accessible to data consumers inside any application or report. And if the definition is not available, the data user can make a request for the definition creation.

We hope this blog post helps you and your organization in building up your business glossary. Additional business glossary resources can be found in this blog post. After some initial manual entry and imports, we recommend the help desk, customer service and just-in-time approach as opposed to the committee approach in adding business glossary definitions. You want to have consistent growth and improvement in your business glossary.  Additional business glossary resources (blog posts, videos, and webinars) can be found here.

IData has a solution, the Data Cookbook, that can aid the employees and the organization in its data governance and data intelligence efforts including data requests. IData also has experts that can assist with data governance, reporting, integration, and other technology services on an as needed basis. Feel free to contact us and let us know how we can assist.

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Jim Walery
About the Author

Jim Walery is a marketing professional who has been providing marketing services to technology companies for over 20 years and specifically those in higher education since 2010. Jim assists in getting the word out about the community via a variety of channels. Jim is knowledgeable in social media, blogging, collateral creation and website content. He is Inbound Marketing certified by HubSpot. Jim holds a B.A. from University of California, Irvine and a M.A. from Webster University. Jim can be reached at jwalery[at]

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