Someone is nit-picking, someone is splitting hairs, someone is quibbling about semantics.
A common saying used to indicate someone is focussing too much on the details, on technicalities. However, for a business, semantics can mean the difference between failure and success.

What does it mean?
That question is answered by semantics, as semantics is the linguistic study of meaning. In business, semantics mainly encompasses the clear and consistent defining of business concepts. The world standard SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Rules) of the OMG (Object Management Group) is dedicated to the proper application of semantics in business. At a first glance semantics can indeed seem tedious and irrelevant. Everyone knows what a customer is, no need to write it down. In practice, however, different interpretations can exist. Everyone thinks they know what ‘customer’ means, but reality shows that differences in meaning exist. Different people using different interpretations communicate about these concepts with each other, without realising these differences. This will surely lead to misunderstandings and by consequence losses for the organisation.

That question is answered by semantics, as semantics is the linguistic study of meaning. In business, semantics mainly encompasses the clear and consistent defining of business concepts. The world standard SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Rules) of the OMG (Object Management Group) is dedicated to the proper application of semantics in business. At a first glance semantics can indeed seem tedious and irrelevant. Everyone knows what a customer is, no need to write it down. In practice, however, different interpretations can exist. Everyone thinks they know what ‘customer’ means, but reality shows that differences in meaning exist. Different people using different interpretations communicate about these concepts with each other, without realising these differences. This will surely lead to misunderstandings and by consequence losses for the organisation.

To prevent these misunderstandings a common understanding is needed. Often this is realized by creating a business glossary. However, this is not sufficient to attain a true common understanding. Not only do all people within organisation need to use the same vocabulary, they also need to interpret the vocabulary identically at any moment in time.

To truly attain a common understanding, continuous verification and improvement of the concept and its definition is necessary. A common understanding needs a continuous cycle of improvement.

How does it work?
It starts with identifying what concepts need to be defined. This can be the concepts that are used in communication with colleagues, end-users or concepts that need to be reported upon because of legislation. They are identified and clarified in natural language, using examples. Once identified, they are classified, matched to a broader concept, such that the concept is placed in its correct context. Then, instead of defining through writing, the concepts identified are related to each other, whereby the relations form the definition. This ensures consistency and coherency throughout the complete business vocabulary. By constantly sharing the concepts and their definitions, common understanding can be achieved. At all times the knowledge is visible for all people involved. The achieved common understanding allows an organisation to communicate effectively internally and externally. Misunderstandings will decrease drastically, as people have the same definitions in their heads. Discussing semantics is not nit-picking or squabbling, it is extremely relevant for any organisation wishing to communicate efficiently. Without semantics knowledge is meaningless.