A recent ITBusiness Edge blog post by @lorainelawson on “Why IT (vs Biz) Should Lead on Data Governance talked about who should be leading a data governance program and garnered some interesting comments on the subject of getting business leadership interested in investing in such a program. What interested me about this were the references to using common language when communicating with business. I’ve mentioned this many (MANY!) times yet continue to hear complaints from all sides about the use of terms, ancronymns and concepts that nobody understands. I mean how hard it is to understand that common language = common ground which leads to trust and collaboration? So maybe it’s just that we need some guidelines to help us do just that! So here are the few I’ve been ranting about:
- When organizing your message, if you are using ANY acronym, write out the words beside the acronym. People will then start to connect the two. If you don’t do it you will just get a lot of confused looks and grumpy recipients. Here is an example of how it could look: “We would be in a better position to more effectively manage our information if we had an agreed upon IA (Information Architecture).
- Now that you’ve written it out, is it self explanitory? If not, then you need to either provide a short description or link to a description. (The example in #1 provides a link to a description). If your recipient has to contact you for an explanation you’re not using common language. And if they have to search elsewhere for it you are wasting their valuable time.
- Don’t take a common or standard term and re-name it because you think the recepient might be more receptive. It’s a common term for goodness sake, don’t make it an un-common term!
- Don’t make up new terms, acronyms or labels without including your recipents in the process. Just how in the heck are they supposed to know what you are talking about? If they try to search for it (see #2 waste of their valuable time) and can’t even find it because it’s a made up word then you’ll be wasting their time AND they still won’t have any answers.
- Don’t use acronyms on page 2 of your document and provide their description on the page 27 appendix.
- Once you’ve written/videotaped/sung/or whatever your message, review it from the perspective of an outsider. Could they understand it’s meaning and respond appropriately?
In the world of Data Governance, and especially when trying to get business buy-in, using common language is a sure fire way to make sure we are all taking about the same thing. At the very least it will help identify when we aren’t talking about the same thing. It may not always be perfect, but it will look like you really took the time to make the message easy to comprehend, and it is sure to help you both on the road to common understanding. It can’t hurt right? Crikey, if dolphins can do it why can’t we?