Artifacts Turn Up in Strange Places


When I hear the word artifact I picture a shard of pottery or a primitive tool that gets unearthed during an archeological dig.

Collection of objects was found by divers in the Tollense River in Germany and is probably the contents of a personal pouch of a warrior who died 3,300 years ago on the battlefield. Credit: Volker Minkus

But I knew this wasn’t the definition of artifact that began to appear in recent business emails I received:

“. . .  my team is focused on curating a playbook of artifacts . . .”

“. . . the team will be regrouping next week to assemble the artifacts from the output of the session.”

The context of the emails immediately tipped me off that the writer wasn’t talking about primitive tools and arrowheads. Was this another entry into the corporate jargon lexicon that I didn’t know about?

A quick search on the term “business artifact” got me up to speed. Artifacts in a business sense represent data. Not the zeros and ones type of data, but instead artifacts are key elements in an approach to modeling business processes. Artifacts basically drive processes that model the business.  

There, that explains it. Kind of. In the use I was being presented, artifact was really another name for a document.

The fact is if an organization is going to use an artifact-based business modeling process, then the team has to embrace and use the corresponding language in their communications and workflow. Thus the word artifact appearing in emails sent to me from the organization.

Every industry and profession has its language. Law. Engineering. Academia. Business artifacts belong to the language of business strategy.

I never would have had a chance to learn about business artifacts—or be compelled to write this blog post—if the appearance of the word hadn’t piqued my curiosity. That wouldn’t have happened if someone wrote they were assembling “documents” or “information.” Those words, easy as they are to understand, just aren’t as sexy as artifact. And . . . knowledge gained.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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