Artifact: Glossary
This artifact defines important terms used by the project. The collection of terms clarifies the vocabulary used on the project.
Domains: Requirements

These are the purposes of this artifact:

  • To record the terms that are being used on the project so that everyone has a common understanding of them
  • To achieve consistency by promoting the use of common terminology across the project
  • To make explicit different stakeholders' use of the same terms to mean different things or different terms to mean the same thing
  • To provide important terms to the Analysis and Design team.
Main Description

This artifact helps you avoid miscommunication by providing two essential resources:

  • A central location to look for terms and abbreviations that are new to development team members
  • Definitions of terms that are used in specific ways within the domain

Definitions for the glossary terms come from several sources, such as requirements documents, specifications, and discussions with stakeholders and domain experts.

Brief Outline

A project glossary defines the terms used during all phases of the project. There is a short definition for each term.

Key Considerations

Although listed as an output from and an input to tasks associated with the requirements discipline, this artifact can be updated at any time and by any role as new terms are identified. The terms defined should be used according to the recorded definitions in all project documentation so that all stakeholders can clearly see that terms are being used consistently.

One of the primary decisions when developing this artifact is whether to have all terms in a single glossary or to maintain terms in several glossaries, business terms artifacts, or models. If terms are defined in multiple places, you need to communicate all of those sources to the team and decide which take precedence.

It may be important, even in small projects, to reference and use existing broader glossaries, business terms artifacts, or data models, where they exist.

Industry- and organization-wide glossaries may be referenced, and compliance with such specific chosen standards may be required.

Impact of not havingMisunderstandings about the meanings of data items account for many failed projects. Increased costs and delayed schedules are associated with projects that lack a common understanding of the terms being used.
Reasons for not needing

On small projects (for example, enhancement projects), which rely on a team very familiar with the terms, this artifact may be omitted.

If a project team has access to the glossary terms in some other form, this artifact may be disregarded.  

Representation Options

This is a simple alphabetical listing of domain terms and their definitions. It can be captured in a spreadsheet, document, or published on a Wiki site to simplify access and maintenance.