What is business language?

13 Oct 2021

Many technical professionals discover not speaking business language is a barrier to progress. How many projects never get past the idea stage because the tech teams couldn’t explain their idea effectively? How many tech leads miss out on promotion because they don’t speak business language?

So, what is business language?

  • Simplifies ideas and expresses them from a business perspective
  • Can describe complex topics in a way that everyone can understand
  • Focuses on the effort and outcomes

Business language simplifies ideas

Every language is confusing before you learn it. Business language is no different. When you understand business language, you’ll find its core purpose is to simplify, not to confuse.

Business language is a way of simplifying information in a way anyone can understand. It tells us ‘Why is this important for the business?’

It simplifies a topic into a few common themes. This works for any topic at work, and it doesn’t matter how complex the topic is. It also doesn’t matter what your job is, everyone at work should use this type of language at some point or another.

Business language is about business perspective

We need to think about ideas from the business perspective. The business isn’t a person, but it is a collection of people working with a common purpose. The business perspective views all topics and evaluates them against that common purpose.

Read more about the three main perspectives we use at work.

Business language focuses on effort and outcomes

The business perspective focuses on the effort to do work. It also focuses on the outcomes that work delivers.

  • Effort = the time, money and resources needed to deliver a specific outcome.
  • Outcome = the financial, time, quality, and compliance results the effort produces.

Every company has a finite amount of time, money and resources. The perspective of the business is to make the best use of those while trying to achieve its goals.

The outcomes are further broken down into specific outcomes:

  • Financial impacts: What is the cost or earnings change?
  • Time impacts: What is the speed, productivity, efficiency or capacity change?
  • Quality impacts: What is the difference for the user experience, performance or reputation?

Everything at work can be simplified and expressed in these terms. These are terms that everyone understands.

An example of business language in use

A complex IT project could be explained by talking about the technology, processes and systems involved. That description would make sense to experts who understand the technology. It wouldn’t make as much sense to anyone else. Executives, people in non-technical teams, investors, customers, they might all be confused.

Instead of focusing on how the technology works, the project could be described using the variables from the business perspective.

If we spend X days, Y dollars, and Z resources to build a new thing, we get A cost reduction, B efficiency and C customer experience improvement.

The business language description doesn’t need any technical information. It names the thing to be built, the upgrades to make, of the thing to remove. Then, business language is used to describe the effort needed to do the work and the outcomes from the effort. It doesn’t matter if the audience is new employee or the CEO, the description will make sense to them.


Despite how it looks from the outside, Business language isn’t mumbo jumbo. Business language is spoken by all roles, not just business roles. Technical professionals are absolutely able to learn to think and speak using it. The key is to shift perspective to consider what the business cares about.

If you are ever asked to use business language, shift your perspective. Don’t describe what your topic is or how something works. Talk about the effort to do it and the outcomes for doing it.

Focus on efforts and outcomes. How much time, money and resources will it take to do, and what are the financial, time and quality outcomes?

Do this and you’ll be talking a language every executive understands.