Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Sharing knowledge and saving time with a Business Glossary and a FAQ tool
Year Submitted 2018
Awarded Third Prize Ex-aequo
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
George Firican Director, Data Governance and Business Intelligence
Pradeep Nair Director, Information Systems
Danyelle Ritch Manager, DAE Services Projects
Name of Institution The University of British Columbia
Office Address 500-5950 University Boulevard
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3
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Telephone: 6048226595
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Ana-Maria Hobrough
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Managing Director, DAE Services
Office Address 500 - 5950 University Blvd
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3
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Telephone: 604-822-3722
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

As with many organizations there is a lot of knowledge accumulated and shared through emails, documents, presentations, training sessions, workshops, and sometimes just in people’s heads. This decentralized method of organizing and accessing information was decreasing the quality, accuracy and consistency of UBC Development and Alumni Engagement (DAE) staff work.

The primary goal of this project was for all DAE staff and relevant partners to be able to access, and easily find, accurate, up-to-date processes, policies, procedures, templates, definitions and answers, quickly and easily. We implemented this in two interconnected ways:

  1.        “How to DAE”: a searchable tool in DAE’s SharePoint environment where staff can search by keyword, unit, department or category in order to find the relevant process, policy, procedure, template or answer that they were looking for. It’s like Google, but just for DAE.
  2.        Business Glossary: an approved compendium of business terms which was established in conjunction with the above tool to enhance knowledge sharing across the DAE portfolio. Just like the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, it offers an easy to use search function, but unlike a dictionary it only provides one definition and only one meaning to a term. Numerous other metadata elements are assigned to each term such as a synonym, owner, data quality rules, etc. each with a different scope. This is what makes this particular business glossary unique and innovative.

“How to DAE” and the business glossary are intimately connected. They link to each other at all informational intersections, and each is accessible through the other. They weave seamlessly together in such a way that at the user level they seem to be two parts of the same tool. But more importantly, they both speak to the internal business need of promoting consistency, accuracy and efficiency across the portfolio.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

Even though the "How to DAE" and business glossary tools have been built into a SharePoint environment, their implementation can be replicated on any web based platforms, anywhere from a simple web page to a more complex knowledge sharing or content collaboration platform. The framework of the "How to DAE" tool can be adopted and updated based on any organizational structure and types and volume of documentation needed to search, find, and maintain. The guidelines and best practices needed to put together terms and definitions for the business glossary are also universal, as well as the framework for maintaing and curating the glossary, though it is advisable for these to be updated based on the organization's data governance operating model.

Both of the "How to DAE" and business glossary models can be replicated in a new environment, granted that ownership is taken for their initial implementation and ongoing maintenance.


Quality Impact

The audience of both “How to DAE” and the business glossary is strictly internal. However, it is a very diverse group of people with different perspectives. This includes fundraisers, administrative staff, alumni engagement officers, accounting staff, IT staff, Research staff, human resources staff, executive level leadership, and many others.


“How to DAE” and the business glossary have an impact to all these groups of people and the knowledge it brings is integral to successful fundraising and alumni engagement activities. Prior to both of these being rolled out, our DAE colleagues would rely on seeking information within the multiple sections of the intranet, common shared drives, email inboxes, or from other colleagues. This method was inefficient and unreliable due to:

  • A lot of time was being spent looking for information in multiple places
  • Finding similar and sometimes conflicting information in different sources, not knowing which one to trust
  • Not having the certainty that some of the documents found are the most up to date and approved versions
  • Once found, the information was not always shared with others looking for the same thing, or forgotten a few weeks or months later and having to be searched for again.


Having dedicated tools to address the issues above, not only improved operational efficiencies, but yielded trust in this shared information, better understanding, exposure to what their fellow colleagues were subject matter experts in, and fostered internal communications.

Productivity Impact

A 2012 International Data Corporation (IDC) report[1] found that the average employee spends 2.3 hours per week searching for, but not finding documents, and 6.9 hours per week researching and gathering information. Based on anecdotal stories and conversations from meetings, projects, and work plan sessions, DAE seemed no different in this capacity.

Both “How to DAE” and the Business Glossary have an increased exposure on DAE’s intranet and they are introduced in all new employee onboarding sessions. They serve as the central repository for DAE related information as it is trusted, and known to be reliable, vetted, and current. An impressive update can be seen for both among DAE staff, especially with new hires, as the number of unique users and hits tend to rise shortly after new colleagues join DAE.

On average, “How to DAE” has ~100 unique monthly visitors, and an average of 75 unique monthly visitors use the Search function within the tool. The business glossary alone has had over 400 hits on a monthly average for the past year, almost doubling from the year before. This is in part due to increased exposure in the tools, and constantly addition of new information.

We find that each unique visitor tends to use these tools repeatedly, using it to find similar information frequently.

While we cannot at this time quantify the specific amount of time saved across the portfolio, we have received very positive feedback from our colleagues. Anecdotally, several colleagues have mentioned that they “just go to How to DAE for everything” and others have mentioned how useful is it to refer to the tool rather than explain something when a colleague asks them a question. Similarly, with the business glossary, we’ve received positive feedback from the technical staff tasked to produce reports, improve processes, or develop tools and technical solutions, as well as the fundraising and alumni engagement staff, mentioning they now feel confident to refer to a central place for these business terms and their details for which they know have been approved and are constantly curated.

While we have seen great initial success with our launch of “How to DAE” and the business glossary, through a lens of continuous improvement, we plan to consistently update and expand upon the information within the tools, as well as focus on ongoing training and internal promotion to ensure that both new hires and DAE veterans trust and use these tools daily in their roles at DAE.


[1] https://warekennis.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/bridging-the-information-worker-productivity-gap.pdf


"How to DAE” is purpose built within our current SharePoint environment to be a central access point to the various locations that information could be held across the DAE portfolio. We built and populated this tool, and formatted it based on FAQs, each with a question, answer, contact person and link to the relevant document, presentation, template, page or otherwise. The format and structure of the tool was also innovatively designed to mirror various complex and intersecting ways that DAE and its information can be organized. For example, there is one page where the FAQs can be viewed by category, another page is organized by unit based on our organizational structure, and another is focused on purpose based search. While the information has not moved and is only held in a single location, the tool has been designed to allow access in diverse ways and with the knowledge that users have diverse amounts of information to start with, and diverse ways of looking at things.


First, it is not a dictionary as each term only has one definition and not multiple definitions to choose from, depending on the context. This is very important as it minimizes the confusion and risk of choosing the incorrect definition.

Second, besides the terms and their approved definitions there are numerous metadata elements associated with each term in order to provide as much useful information as possible. Each term captures synonyms, acronyms, and abbreviations often used by the more seasoned staff and initially unknown by new hires. It also provides examples for usage, and links towards related documentation, processes, and any internal or external documentation the definition was based on (ex: Canadian Revenue Agency, specific legislation, CASE, or UBC specific policies). If the term is also used in DAE’s CRM, information about the views and forms it is found on (ex: physical address of a constituent), as well as how to query it, is available in the details of that business glossary term. Technical metadata such as server name, physical column and table name, ETL process, as well as data quality rules that it needs to be validated against are also offered as they are very helpful for any data integration or data extraction project.

Third, each term has a curator and owner identified. This person is needed to approve any changes to the definition and to be kept in the loop with any technical or business process changes associated with it.


Since the business glossary is a populated custom list in SharePoint it easily integrates with the “How to DAE” and other informative pages. It serves as a central place for approved definitions and the source of truth for all approved business terms. Moreover, as of December 2017, it has been incorporated into a mandatory addendum page for all new DAE reports.


Supporting Documents CAUBO-2017-Attachments.pdf