Terminology as a Business Differentiator!

I have worked with many organizations, and the ones that have a clear definition of their terminology have an operating advantage over their competitors. I just spent a day listening to a client arguing over their most fundamental terminology. The meeting could have taken half of the time if they could agree on the word “Application”: was it a single document, an assembly of documents, or a process?

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Before I get deep in the weeds, let me set the stage. Think about how language has evolved over time. As specialized skills have developed, so too have the words that the specialists use. Imagine two surgeons trying to coordinate their actions during an operation; if they do not have a common name for every part of the anatomy, for each tool on their tray…and every procedure, then how do you think that operation will turn out? How long will it take?

Whether your business is an innovator in the market, or selling a commodity, you have a dozen competitors that are looking for a competitive advantage. Some innovators get to invent the terminology and everyone else that follows either has to adopt it or struggle to make their place. If I brought a Venti coffee, then you immediately know where I bought it. Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of product recognition?

Ok, it is not likely to happen, but you can differentiate your organization to customers in other ways. By using your own terminology, you can completely shape your business and how your employees and customers perceive it. To some extent, you could call it branding, but it does not have to be limited to marketing; It could be a business process you do on every project.

Just like the example of the doctors, you need to have a very specific terminology that is clearly defined. Sometimes it is simple things, like a procedure to void a transaction. Other times it could be more complex, like managing a million dollar construction project. Each business process should be very clear and understandable to each employee, and you should train your staff on the procedures they use so that they are completed consistently.

You may not realize the possible efficiencies your business could benefit from. A good example is to define a unique name for a process, the roles of the people that work on that process, and the items they work on. Don’t use the same name for some part of the process and the unit of work. For example, you can train your employees that a refund is “when the Accounts Payable clerk will print a check to refund the customer” rather than “the accounting department will process the payment” which leaves room for interpretation.

Can you make it easier for your customers to buy your products? Many Amazon shoppers know that if see a “Buy Now” button, it does not require a full check out process. Can you make a “Lightning Quote” feature on your web site that uses a few metrics to produce an estimate?

Thankfully, you do not have to create all your terminology from scratch. You can accelerate the process by getting consultants from BroadPoint with business process experience. Then take it a step further, and identify a process you do more efficiently than your competition, give it a name, and promote it as your differentiator. Alternatively, take a tool you use internally (such as a spreadsheet with your own formulas) and give that a name and market it as your unique Intellectual Property to demonstrate that you are not just using the same tools everyone else is using. 


Nelson Johnson
Solution Architect
BroadPoint, Inc.

Nelson Johnson