Decoding 11 Common Business Acronyms

ovaltineWhen you listen to business folks speak or you read business literature, do you ever  feel a bit like Ralphie with his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring trying to decode a secret message? (Reference: A Christmas Story) Admittedly, I feel a bit silly, embarrassed and even intimidated when I come across an acronym I don’t know the meaning of.  It’s like I’m not a member of some secret society.

Over a year ago, Jenny and I did a hangout and talked about how out of control we can get with acronyms.  Too much of this insider lingo and all of a sudden we aren’t speaking the same language as our customers.

As a frequent reader of business articles, books and blogs, and attender of business events and conferences, I find myself going cross-eyed when I start to hear acronyms thrown about that I only sort of know the meaning of.  To save us all some time, here are eleven such acronyms where I will once and for all look up the meanings and share them with you.  Don’t judge me if you already know all of these and can competently use them in a sentence.

B2B- Business To Business- This term simply refers to business transactions between one business and another.  When one business sells products and services to another business, that is B2B.

B2C- Business To Consumer- This refers to businesses that sell products and services directly to end users as opposed to other businesses.

BPO- Business Process Outsourcing- I’m glad I finally looked this one up.  This is simply where a company outsources a certain business function to be handled by another company.  This could include payroll, HR and customer service.

ROI- Return On Investment- As you move into management, be prepared to hear this one early and often.  When you ask a business leader or investor to invest money in a new product, technology or service, you had better be prepared to project and demonstrate what kind of gain they stand to see on their investment.

CPA- Cost Per Acquisition- This could also mean Certified Public Accountant but I hear the former mentioned more frequently in our office.  Business leaders and especially our marketing professionals want to understand how much it is costing to acquire new customers.

CEM- Customer Experience Management- This is the practice of managing the customer’s entire experience with your product or service.  This includes understanding their unique feelings, perceptions and needs in order to better serve them.

CRM- Customer Relationship Management- This is a system for managing all interactions with current and future customers.  The market for CRM software vendors is huge right now with Salesforce being the most familiar.

SLA- Service Level Agreement- Examples of service levels include the amount of uptime a company will guarantee on their systems or perhaps the percentage of calls a contact center outsourcer will answer in a minute or less.  These are guarantees or standards designed to instill confidence in a particular company.

KPI- Key Performance Indicators- These are performance measurements for your organization and are likely agreed upon metrics that determine how the company is performing.

SOP- Standard Operating Procedures- Our engineering staff loves to write SOPs and share them with us.  These outline specific processes to ensure that we achieve the same result each time we need to handle a process.

SAAS- Software As A Service- I’m embarrassed to say that I have worked for SAAS companies for the last thirteen years and only in the last year did I understand what SAAS meant.  At we offer a cloud-based phone system for a recurring fee.  That is software as a service!

Folks, I am just scratching the surface here, but have successfully taken one step closer to decoding the many future articles and books I plan to read.  There’s a gigantic list of these on Wikipedia should you long to know more acronyms.  What are some of your favorite business acronyms?


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