Enterprise Glossary

As a Professor, I realized long ago how important words can be. Not just the words themselves but also the definitions and contexts in which those words should be properly used. When we think about the vocabulary of ITSM (and it is quite an extensive technical vocabulary) we must remember that it is vital that we are all using the terminology in the same way. To help us get on the same page for the language of ITSM, one thing an organization can do is to create an enterprise glossary. Such a collection of terms helps people to use terminology and vocabulary correctly and in its proper context. Common usage of terminology also leads to consistency of thinking and action.

A glossary is defined as:
A list of words relating to a specific topic with the definitions of the words provided.
An enterprise glossary is therefore a collection of words used throughout and across an organization or enterprise to help establish consistent definitions wherever the vocabulary might be used. A single documented source of vocabulary helps to build cultural norms and a common vision for an organization.

So how do we establish such a collection of words for specific topics with established definitions? We begin with the words themselves. Every word or term has a three part definition:
TERM: this is the word or term itself, with consistent spelling
DEFINITION: this is the most basic, dictionary derived explanation of the term
CONTEXT: this is the usage of the word or topic to which the term applies
Let’s look at an ITSM example:
TERM: Incident
DEFINITION: a single distinct event (Princeton University Wordnetweb)
CONTEXT: Incident Management—describing a single distinct event in which the delivery of service is currently or may be disrupted or impacted
This example shows that we cannot simply use the word “Incident” in a loose or haphazard way. We must determine the context or situation in which the definition applies. We can then find “real examples” that fit the definition and context. Not everything that happens in IT is an Incident, only those that disrupt or may disrupt service delivery. The various contexts or topics in which words or terms have been, are or could be used are the real heart of the enterprise glossary.

So we gather together all of the words relating to the implementation or use of ITSM within an organization or maybe even a broader context of IT. Once we collect the words in a documented form, we get agreement on the terms, definitions and contexts for each word from a variety of stakeholders and decision makers.

Finally we publish the enterprise glossary in a convenient, accessible location (perhaps the company intranet). Then we ensure that people know about the glossary through awareness and communications efforts. We also verify that people begin using the terminology according to the agreed-upon glossary entries. If people misuse the terms, we must gently but firmly correct them and explain to them the proper context and use of the terms. Point them to the enterprise glossary and explain to people the importance of common terminology.

An enterprise glossary can be a powerful tool to bring consistency, standardization, predictability and structure to you ITSM effort. So do not wait—work on that enterprise glossary today!


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