Rasheeda Childress is an associate editor at Associations Now.
With tech terms bandied about every day in association life, all staff need a basic level of technology literacy to communicate effectively and work efficiently. Need to get better at talking tech? Use this glossary to study up.
Tech terms—from cloud computing to business intelligence—are ever present in association life. They come up during meetings, in emails, and in conversations with members and vendors. That’s why it’s important for all staff, not just an association’s IT team, to have a basic understanding of common tech-related words.
“When definitions are clear, you are more efficient with your time,” says Achurch Consulting CEO Rebecca Achurch, CAE. “There are less reworks. It reduces miscommunications.”
Even when two people think they’re on the same page, they may not be. Some tech terms overlap or require more clarity. For instance, “I think there are frequently misunderstandings about what ‘cloud’ is,” Achurch says. “It’s such a broad spectrum and a lot of detail about understanding what it means. It could be an offsite storage facility, or it could be a cloud-based app system.”
Association staff with purchasing power for systems that will assist their job function need to take special care that they know the related tech terms, according to Achurch. You need “enough knowledge to make sure that your vendors are really meeting your requirements and your needs as an organization, and not just proposing the same canned solution for every association,” she says. “It matters what skills your team has; it matters the strategic direction you’re going.”
And if a staff member is having a discussion with a potential vendor or partner and unfamiliar tech terms come up, Achurch says it’s important to ask questions. “I would suggest some tactics I’ve used: Can you help me understand what you mean by X? Can you give me an example? Can you describe it in a different way?” she says. “Partners and good technologists should be able to speak in simple, plain English without the tech terms.”
While everyone should have some basic knowledge, tech staff at associations can help, especially if they are doing a system overhaul or implementing a new system.
“If we’ve decided we are going to do a big data analytics project, then there needs to be an effort by the organization to make sure the language is now part of the organization,” she says. “It’s great to do brown bags or small informational learning sessions that your tech team can lead.”
Whether you’re in the middle of a systems implementation that requires new knowledge or just want a better understanding of artificial intelligence or data analytics, here’s a glossary of terms that will help you boost your tech prowess.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Allowing employees to bring personally owned devices (e.g., laptops, tablets, and smartphones) to the office and to use those devices to do their work and access company information, data, and applications. Because of the security risks this may pose, many businesses are implementing BYOD policies. (Webopedia, Wikipedia)
Business Intelligence (BI)
An umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure, tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to help organizations improve and optimize decisions and performance. (Gartner)
The science of examining raw data with the purpose of drawing conclusions about that information. (Simplilearn)
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
In effect since May 2018, GDPR encompasses a set of rules that harmonizes data and privacy protection laws for individuals across 31 countries—all 28 European Union member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway—known collectively as the European Economic Area.
GDPR’s 99 articles apply not only to EU businesses but also to any company or organization with personal information about individuals located in the EEA. Under the new regulations, EU residents have the right to access their personal data, the right to rectify incomplete or inaccurate data, the right to be forgotten, and the right to restrict the processing of their data.
Organizations have about 30 days to respond to individual requests about whether personal data is being processed and, if so, to provide access to that data. And if an organization experiences a data breach, it has 72 hours to notify EU data protection agencies. Failure to do so could be costly: Violators are subject to fines up to €20 million or 4 percent of a company’s annual global revenue, whichever is greater. (TechTerms, Wikipedia)
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
A set of security standards that were designed to ensure that all organizations that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Failure to comply with PCI requirements can lead to steep fines and penalties, revocation of credit card payment services, or even suspension of accounts. (Investopedia)
A service that permits a user to use one set of login credentials (e.g., name and password) to access multiple applications. The service authenticates the end user for all the applications the user has been given rights to and eliminates further prompts when the user switches applications during the same session. (TechTarget)
A type of scam where an intruder attempts to gain unauthorized access to a user’s system or information by pretending to be the user. The main purpose is to trick the user into releasing sensitive information in order to gain access to his or her bank account or computer system or to steal personal information like passwords. (TechTerms, Investopedia)
The process of substituting an important and sensitive piece of data with a non-sensitive equivalent. The new non-sensitive data used is typically a randomly or algorithmically generated alphanumeric code called a “token.”(TechTarget)
Also referred to as 2FA, this verification process typically requires a correct login plus another verification check. For example, if 2FA is enabled on an online bank account, users may be required to enter a temporary code sent to their phone or email address to complete the login process. (TechTerms)
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Machine or software technology that mimics human intelligence. Rather than the computer following preset commands, AI can learn, recognize speech, plan, solve problems, and self-correct. Most AI used today is classified as weak or narrow AI, in that it is focused on a single or narrow set of tasks (a virtual assistant, for example). Strong AI, which is theoretical today, would be able to use its intelligence in a broad range of situations and perform well in all of them. (Tech Terms, TechTarget, Skymind, Techopedia)
An overlay of digital imagery or content on the real world. Examples include the yellow first-down line projected on football fields, the Pokémon Go! game, and pop-up displays on cars that show information like driver speed. (TechTarget, TechTerms)
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Software designed to integrate the different systems used to run a business so that data can easily flow between them. These business systems might include human resources, accounting, procurement, and project management. (TechTarget, Oracle)
Software whose source code is open to the public. This means others can modify it, and it is often designed communally. Open-source software is typically free. (TechTerms, TechTarget, Merriam-Webster)
Software as a Service (SaaS)
A form of cloud computing that allows users to access software housed on a server elsewhere via the internet, unlike the traditional model that requires software be installed on the device. (TechTarget, Software Advice, TechTerms)
This programming term—or its variant, “tech stack”—is used to describe the process of combining (or stacking) programs and software to create a new program. Back-end stack works on behind-the-scenes programs, while front-end stack works on interfaces the user sees. Some people use the term in marketing (martech stack) or sales (sales stack) to refer to the concept of stacking services to build something new. (Silicone Valley Software Group, TechTerms, WebFX, MixPanel)
The process of running another operating system on a machine using virtualization software. The virtual system is segregated from the main system. Reasons to run a virtual machine include trying a new operating system before installing it, running old or incompatible software, and testing suspicious files. (TechTerms, Techopedia)
While augmented reality is meant to enhance a person’s surroundings, virtual reality is designed to immerse a person into a completely digital world. Using the technology often involves wearing a device over eyes and sometimes on hands. (TechTarget, TechTerms)
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Application Programming Interface (API)
A protocol that programmers use when writing code to enable different systems to communicate with each other. It provides developers with standard commands for performing common operations. (TechTerms, TechTarget)
A small file left on a user’s machine by a website. The file stores information sent by the website, and each time the user returns to the site, the site can access the file and add information. (Merriam-Webster, TechTarget)
Data about other data. For example, image file metadata might include the creation date, image resolution, and file size. Some types of metadata, like file size, are created automatically, while others are created by the user, such as keywords used for website metadata. (Merriam-Webster, TechTarget)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The practice of trying to get a website to appear atop the results list when a person searches for a topic via a search engine (e.g., Google, Bing). Developers input various forms of metadata to get the search engine to believe their site is most relevant. (TechTarget, TechTerms)
User Experience (UX)
Refers to the way a user interacts with a product. The term, coined by Apple guru Don Norman, was intended to apply to all products. In the tech sphere, it refers to designing technology in a way that focuses on creating an easy and intuitive experience for users. While they are different terms, you’ll often hear customer experience (CX), customer interface (CI), and user interface (UI) mentioned in the same space as UX. (NGroup, TechTarget)
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Tech Talk."]