"Speak the same business language" is one of the success factors in business communication. A company's business glossary is the solution.

"Let’s speak the same language," was once said at the Amsterdam FP&A Board. Do you know what your FP&A Colleagues meant with this expression? And do you also find it challenging to find a common language within various departments of your company?

In this article, I would like to tackle this issue and give you some tips on creating better and more efficient ways of communicating between different units within your company.

What does it mean to "speak the same language?"

First of all, let us split this expression into two underlying questions: which language are we talking about, and what parties are trying to communicate?

Which language is obvious: your professional language

The communicating parties? You can (again) split this into two groups:

- Within your company: your FP&A colleagues, the stakeholders from different departments, and finally, the management.

- Outside of your company: FP&A colleagues, authorities, etc.

To demonstrate the issue, let’s take a simple definition, such as ‘Revenue’ as found on Wikipedia:

“ In accounting, revenue is the income that a business has from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. Revenue is also referred to as sales or turnover. I think the issue is quite apparent from this example.

What issues do we see here?

From my experience, there are two major issues with using professional language:

- You use the same term as your colleague does, but it means something else;

- You use different terms which all mean the same thing.

This issue creates problems with the reconciliation of reporting from different departments and building enterprise DWH and BI solutions. How many examples will you immediately generate from your practice?

Why do we need to "speak the same language?"

I have thought of a couple of reasons, but you can definitely extend this shortlist of ‘why’ if you think about how it applies to the company you work at:

- To maximize understanding of the goals of your company and department;

- To ease decision-making and budgeting processes;

- To align FP&A Terminology with application implementation;

- To maximize the accuracy of achieved company results.

How can you create a common language within your company?

I did it once for my former employer. Now it seems easy, but at the time, I tried numerous approaches before succeeding.

Reflecting on this experience, in my opinion, this is the list of necessary actions to be taken:

  1. Gather your policies and create the list of definitions used in these policies;
  2. Add the list of definitions used in the regulations you have to comply with and the industry standards used;
  3. Take reports that you use and make a list of reporting elements that constitute these reports.
  4. Agree with your direct stakeholders on the definitions of these Reporting elements.

It seems quite easy, but you will probably encounter many surprises and obstacles along the way.

People believe that tooling can help. But believe me, even using such simple tools as Excel and SharePoint will already get you a step ahead in your quest to create a common language and profit from its benefits.

Where can you find an FP&A glossary?

A couple of months ago Larisa Melnychuk (Managing Director at FP&A Trends Group ) and I tried to find FP&A Glossary. We found one by Adaptive Insights HERE.

FP&A Trends and Data Crossroads came up with an initiative to create a common interactive Business Glossary and let you participate in the creation of professional FP&A language and share your experience with industry peers.

Just start doing it…

And if you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me for further advice.

What will happen as your journey continues? I will advise you on some simple tools. These tools can help you during the following phases.

For more insights, visit the Data Crossroads Academy site: //academy.datacrossroads.nl/courses/how-to-bring-data-management-into-finance-practices/lesson/data-management-fundamentals-for-finance/