In their reading and networking, non-tech leaders may latch on to a frequently discussed tech “buzzword” or concept and believe their organization needs to “add it” or “do something with it”—even when they don’t really know what “it” is. Whether they overestimate the current capabilities of an emerging technology or misinterpret the insider vocabulary of tech experts, non-tech leaders who insist on adding a new tech tool or process just because “everybody’s talking about it” not only frustrate their tech-focused colleagues, but can also add unneeded complications and costs to their processes.
The best first step for leaders who are intrigued by a new technology or process is to talk to the tech pros on their team to gain some clarification. It also helps to find educational resources that can explain tech concepts in simple, layperson-friendly terms. Below, 15 members of Forbes Technology Council share some common tech buzzwords that are overused and frequently misunderstood by those who aren’t tech-savvy and what the reality behind these terms is.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Genuine artificial intelligence is rare; most solutions are powered by advanced machine learning. Non-tech leaders are often fooled by the difference, believing logic-based architectures provide the same services as algorithmic AI. However, rules-based tools cannot adapt to novel failures. True AI learns and grows with its organization, proactively addressing errors before they manifest. – Phil Tee, Moogsoft
2. Big Data
One tech buzzword I believe too many companies latch onto is “big data.” In its simplest form, big data represents large quantities of processable information. The thing is, many small to medium-sized startups won’t see much value from investing in tools that process big data, because they simply don’t have enough data points to warrant the financial cost or time. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
Blockchain is often seen as a solution for various business challenges, but the reality is that blockchain is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a distributed ledger technology. It provides transparency, security and immutability, but it is most suitable for scenarios involving trust, decentralized systems and multi-party transactions. – Dr. Vivek Bhandari, Powerledger
“CubeSat” refers to a small satellite, often associated with cost-effective space missions. Some leaders think it’s an easy solution for their organization without understanding the complexities. Building and launching CubeSats requires expertise, rigorous testing and adherence to regulations. – Shelli Brunswick, Space Foundation
“DevOps” is frequently boiled down to just “automation in software development,” which doesn’t fully capture its essence. In actuality, DevOps is a cohesive amalgamation of development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) designed to streamline processes. This methodology empowers organizations to promptly roll out high-quality software with an emphasis on robust security and dependable reliability. – Sandro Shubladze, Datamam
6. Digital Transformation
“Digital transformation” is a buzzword that is often overused and misunderstood. Non-tech leaders may believe that adopting digital technologies alone will solve all their organizational problems. However, true digital transformation involves a holistic approach, including changes in processes, culture and the customer experience. It requires strategic planning and organizational buy-in. – Jagadish Gokavarapu, Wissen Infotech
The games industry spent decades honing the art and science of game design: a neurochemical recipe for driving behavior change through puzzles, strategy and other mechanics that are carefully balanced for reward, challenge and skill. The common use of the word “gamification” is a gross oversimplification of that discipline—taking content that isn’t fun (or even interactive), tacking on a quiz or badge and hoping engagement will increase. – Sam Glassenberg, Level Ex
8. Generative AI
While many companies have been quick to hop on the ChatGPT train, they should be considering the risks before adopting it. The reality of generative AI is that it makes errors (including making stuff up), can run into copyright issues when it drafts a response, and could cause privacy concerns if it shares confidential business or client information. – Gary Sangha, Lexcheck
9. Internet Of Things
When non-tech leaders think of the Internet of Things, or IoT, they may envision a world where every object is connected and controlled remotely, without fully grasping the practical implications and challenges. IoT refers to a network of physical devices that is able to collect and exchange data. Non-tech leaders must understand that IoT projects require careful planning and integration with existing systems to deliver tangible benefits. – Cristian Randieri, Intellisystem Technologies
10. Modular; Componentized
One tech concept that is overused and misunderstood is “modular” or “componentized” product development. When you understand the real meaning, you realize that the concept isn’t an overarching development solution for all products. Development architects and product owners need to collaborate on this kind of architecture, and like any business requirement, implement it only where there is a good business case. – Mark Schlesinger, Broadridge Financial Solutions
12. Robotics; Lean Manufacturing
“Robotics” is often misunderstood by non-tech leaders; they assume it means “lean manufacturing,” but it’s just one tool in the process. Lean manufacturing focuses on waste reduction, efficiency and quality, while robotics is a technology that can enhance automation. Understanding the distinction helps leaders make informed decisions and avoid buzzword-driven initiatives. – Aleksandr Gampel, Cuby Technologies, Inc.
One common tech buzzword that is overused by non-tech leaders is “stakeholders.” Many non-tech leaders believe that identifying a stakeholder in a project is easy, but stakeholder identification can either make or mar the success of a project. Among the toughest parts of a project are engaging stakeholders and communicating their expectations to the team. – Nihinlola Adeyemi, ErrandPay Limited
Many leaders believe there can be “synergy” inside companies. But synergy is about external things—such as clients, partners, resources and so on—not internal things. Internal “synergy” is just how a company operates. Of course, multiple departments work together on projects and need buy-in from each other—that’s basic business and employee competency. Reserve “synergy” for external forces and concepts. – Jordan Yallen, MetaTope
Web3 hasn’t materialized (yet) in the ways people were envisioning, primarily because what it was supposed to be was never clearly defined. Websites still struggle with privacy pop-ups, so it’s unlikely that blockchain integration for your supply chain will be implemented anytime soon. Instead, companies should be building better APIs so that the various form factors (such as mobile, augmented reality and voice) can access the data more easily. – Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket