An Admin’s Cheat Sheet to Business Terminology

May 3, 2023 | Administrative Professionals, Innovation

When I first started working in the financial markets industry, I was introduced to a whole new vocabulary and set of acronyms. It was truly like learning another language. I supported three actuaries who were developing annuity and insurance products for banks. I proofread and edited a lot of policy documents in that position.

I remember one word in particular that I had never heard of or used prior to that position. It was the word arrears. An annuity in arrears is the payment of money at the end of a regular term.

Thankfully, the company I worked for provided an employee training certification course that introduced all of the principles of insurance, and made sure we could all speak and understand the language.

As assistants, understanding the language of business – and our specific industries in particular – is vital to our success. It impacts how we communicate. It impacts how we understand the documents and materials we handle each day. And it impacts how we think and reason to find solutions for the challenges we face in our work. Becoming literate about business is how we develop a high level of business acumen.

There are a lot of ways to develop your business acumen, but one of the most fundamental ways is to learn the language of business. What are the business terms or acronyms you hear consistently? What do they mean? If you don’t know, how fast can you figure it out?

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the terms you need to know, but it’s a good starting point. See how many you already know.

  1. KPI – Key Performance Indicators: These are quantifiable measures that are used to evaluate the success of an organization or a particular activity.
  2. RoI – Return on Investment: This measures the profitability of an investment. It is calculated by dividing the net profit by the investment cost.
  3. P&L – Profit & Loss: This is a financial statement that shows the revenues, costs, and expenses of a company over a particular period of time.
  4. Margin – This is profit from a product or service after all expenses have been covered. It’s often referred to as a percentage.
  5. Scalable – The ability to change in size. This is often used to talk about business growth.
  6. GAAP – Generally Accepted Accounting Principles: These are a set of guidelines and standards that govern how financial statements are prepared and presented.
  7. EBITDA – Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization: This is a measure of a company’s operating performance and profitability.
  8. CAGR – Compound Annual Growth Rate: This is a measure of the average annual growth rate of a company or investment over a particular period of time.
  9. SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats: This is a framework used to evaluate the strategic position of a company or a particular project.
  10. CRM – Customer Relationship Management: This refers to the practices, strategies, and technologies that a company uses to manage its customer interactions and relationships.
  11. ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning: This is a software system used to manage various business processes, including financials, human resources, and supply chain management.
  12. SEO – Search Engine Optimization: This is the process of optimizing a website to improve its visibility and ranking on search engines.
  13. UX – User Experience: This refers to the overall experience that a user has when interacting with a product or service, including the design, usability, and functionality.
  14. UI – User Interface: This is the graphical layout and design of a product or service that enables users to interact with it.
  15. Responsive Website – This term refers to a website that adapts based on the type of device (tablet, phone, laptop, desktop) used to view it.
  16. A/B Testing – Testing two versions (an A version and a B version) to see which one performs better.
  17. ToS – Terms of Service: This refers to the legal agreement between a company or website and its users. It typically outlines the rules, policies, and expectations governing the use of the service.
  18. CTR – Click Through Rate: This ratio is the number of clicks an ad or link receives to the number of impressions (people who saw it).
  19. VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity: This term describes the rapidly changing and unpredictable business environment that many organizations face.
  20. API – Application Programming Interface: This is a set of protocols and tools that developers use to build software applications and integrate different systems.
  21. USP – Unique Selling Proposition: A specific factor that differentiates your product or service from your direct competitor (e.g., cost, quality, added use).
  22. SaaS – Software as a Service: This is a cloud-based software delivery model in which users access software applications over the internet rather than installing and maintaining them on their own computers.
  23. B2B/B2C/B2G – Business-to-Business/Business-to-Consumer/Business-to-Government: These are marketing models that describe the type of customers that a business serves. B2B businesses sell products or services to other businesses, while B2C businesses sell products or services directly to consumers, and B2G describes transactions with government entities.
  24. VPN – Virtual Private Network: This is a secure connection between two or more devices over a public network, such as the internet. VPNs are commonly used to protect sensitive data and provide remote access to corporate networks.
  25. URL – Uniform Resource Locator: This is the address of a web page on the internet. It typically begins with “http://” or “https://” and identifies the domain name or IP address of the web server hosting the page.
  26. SME – Subject Matter Expert: This is an individual who has expertise in a particular area or field and can provide advice or guidance on that subject.
  27. RACI – Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed: This is a project management framework used to clarify roles and responsibilities for different stakeholders involved in a project.
  28. Six Sigma – This is a data-driven approach to quality management that aims to eliminate defects and minimize variation in business processes. It is often used in manufacturing, but can be applied to a wide range of industries.
  29. AGILE – This is an iterative and collaborative approach to project management that emphasizes flexibility and responsiveness to change. It is commonly used in software development but can be applied to other types of projects as well.
  30. Gantt Chart – This is a visual representation of a project schedule that shows the start and end dates of individual tasks, as well as their dependencies and duration.
  31. Cloud Computing – This is the delivery of computing services, including servers, storage, databases, and software, over the internet, rather than through on-premises hardware.
  32. Agile Methodologies – These are a set of approaches to project management that prioritize collaboration, flexibility, and responsiveness to change over strict adherence to a predefined plan.
  33. Kanban – This is a visual framework for managing work that emphasizes visualizing work items, limiting work in progress, and continuously improving processes.
  34. Scrum – This is a framework for managing and completing complex projects that emphasizes collaboration, iterative development, and continuous improvement.
  35. Waterfall – This is a traditional project management methodology that follows a sequential process, where each phase of the project is completed before moving on to the next.

If you ever come across an unfamiliar phrase or acronym, a quick online search should always be your first step. However, if you still need clarification, there’s no shame in asking someone else to help explain what it means or how it specifically applies to your company.

Consider creating a running list of the new business terms, abbreviations, and acronyms you learn. That way, you can be a resource for others in the office!

By learning these important terms and acronyms, administrative professionals can develop a more comprehensive understanding of their organization’s operations and contribute to its success.

Additional resources from around the web:

© 2023 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures. 

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