If you have ever read technology vendor marketing collateral, sometimes you’re left more confused about what their products actually do than before you started reading. Tech marketers seem to speak their own language. Some have a special talent for stringing together buzzwords that might sound good, but in the end are bereft of meaning. Confusing as they may be, buzzwords all have their place; you will even see a few of the ones we mention here on our blog—though we try hard to maintain consciousness of these words and use them sparingly and accurately.
We’ve curated a list of some of the most commonly abused buzzwords, first demonstrating their real-world usage from actual corporate press releases, and then clarifying what they really mean. We hope you find this helpful for navigating the tech content landscape. Note we have left out “cloud computing”—we will leave that axe for Dilbert to grind.
Real-world use: “Our solutions intersect cloud, big data and agile development, creating a framework that increases data leverage, accelerates application delivery, and decreases costs, while providing enterprises the speed and scale they need to compete.” – Press materials for Pivotal
It really means: Usually a reference to a developmental or creative process characterized by incremental assessments of the task or project as it progresses. The purpose is to develop something adaptable and open for collaboration. Since these qualities are important in basically every realm of technology, marketers like to pepper it in wherever possible.
Real-world use: “Armed with access to bleeding-edge information and the best financial minds within the industry, VIK has invested more than any other firm in Korea in a network that can quickly access and deliver services tailored to the customer’s vision while ensuring stable growth in revenue.” – Press materials for Value Invest Korea
It really means: A technology so new that there’s a real risk in early adoption, mainly due to unreliability from lack of testing. A term misunderstood by tech marketers as an amped-up synonym for “cutting edge.”
Real-world use: “Qualcomm Technologies continues to be a leader in the mobile industry with commercialization of the world’s leading modem technology, delivering fast and reliable cellular data connectivity solutions.” – Alex Katouzian, senior vice president, Qualcomm Technologies
It really means: Umbrella term used to describe the ability of a device to link to network or another device. Makes sense, but overly broad usage of this term strips it of meaning.
Real-world use: “Now data-driven businesspeople can have continuous, on-the-go access to their pipeline, team metrics and essential business reports with InsightSquared on their mobile devices.” – Fred Shilmover, CEO of InsightSquared
It really means: Ostensibly pertaining to using statistical analysis in the decision making process instead of intuition or gut-instinct. In actuality it justifies a lot of expenditures on pretty graphs, charts and other vanity metrics.
Real-world use: “We look forward to continuing our relationship as the Air Force leads the way within the government and Department of Defense to deliver secure, next-generation IP-based communication technologies”
It really means: Works interchangeably with buzzwords like “leverage” or “provide” because let’s face it—there are just not that many active verbs to choose from when attributing a technology to its creator.
Real-world use: “Christine and Helen have created a platform that will disrupt the healthcare industry as we know it, and radically simplify the process of shopping for insurance.” – Elizabeth Stewart, CEO of Hub LA
It really means: Most of the time pure exaggeration, it is startup-speak for grabbing a slice of market share and influencing the way business is done moving forward. Most of the time it is pure exaggeration.
Real-world use: “With this product, Badgeville has productized extensive game design expertise so that Salesforce Admins can deploy and manage Badgeville’s gamification without the need for technical resources.” – Steve Sims, Chief Design Officer at Badgeville.
It really means: Creating a game-like experience in something that’s not a game (work) in order to increase involvement and enthusiasm. It’s productivity experts hoping you’ll blow as much time working as you do playing World of Warcraft.
Real-world use: “Snort 3.0 expands on the extensible architecture users have come to know and includes several new capabilities that make it easier for people to learn and run Snort.” – Martin Roesch, vice president and chief architect, Cisco Security Business Group
It really means: A design principle that leaves a product or solution open for add-ons or modification; something that is built for future growth.
Real-world use: “A key LoopUp innovation has been enabling its users to seamlessly turn everyday conference calls into richer collaboration sessions with one-click screen sharing,” – Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Mark Hickey.
It really means: According to Merriam-Webster: “The act or process of introducing new ideas, devices or methods.” This sums up the goal of every tech company ever, so the word gets meaning pummeled out from overuse.
Internet of Things
Real-world use: “Time to value and simplicity are key to success in the Internet of Things space and including support for Energia with our IBM Internet of Things Foundation allows the Energia community to rapidly gain access from device to cloud services, allowing business benefits to be realized faster.” – Michael Curry, VP WebSphere Foundation, IBM”
It really means: In the future, objects not normally associated with connecting to the Internet will connect to the Internet. The Internet will be thought of to include these objects, thus making it the Internet of Things. It is requisite to use this term at least thrice when talking about anything forward-looking, ourselves included. See: What Does the Internet of Things Mean for Our Privacy
Real-world use: “The company’s hosting solutions are exclusively geared towards businesses that need to run mission-critical applications with high performance and store sensitive data safely.” – ScaleUp press materials
It really means: A dramatic way of saying something is vital to the functioning of an organization. Like James Bond and his hip wearables.
Real-world use: “Health Catalyst is a mission-driven data warehousing and analytics company that helps healthcare organizations of all sizes perform the clinical, financial, and operational reporting and analysis needed for population health and accountable care.” – company press materials
It really means: A company that roots its actions in turning a profit along with some other lofty ideal, like being green, sustainable, or some other philanthropic goal—usually loosely-defined by other buzzwords. Especially popular among tech companies who think they’re saving the planet one user at a time.
Real-world use: “The Barracuda NG Firewall delivers next-generation firewalling capabilities and high-speed (> 1 Gbps) site-to-site remote access.” – company press materials
It really means: A product or service is marginally better or different that others currently on the market.
Provide: See: Deliver
Real-world use: “Trupanion set out to completely reinvent their website presence and to deliver a simple, yet satisfying multi-channel user experience, driven by rich, relevant content and responsive website design.” – Company press materials
It really means: Rich media is by nature interactive, but the term is often misused to mean an expansive or deep collection of features.
Real-world use: “With MIT’s Center for Collective intelligence, we want to ‘innovate innovation’ in a space where subject-matter experts often silo themselves into narrow domains, dampening the power of a key ingredient of innovation: diversity.” – Gianni Giacomelli, senior vice president, Genpact
It really means: Used when personnel of certain departments do not work well with other departments, or on tasks beyond their specific duties. It has nothing to do with barnyards. It has everything to do with a disconnect between IT and marketing. Egregious verbing of a noun.
Real-world use: “HCM solutions are rapidly being adopted by businesses that desire the value of a comprehensive, single-source solution for payroll, HR, benefits and time tracking.” – Company press materials
It really means: We use tech to solve certain problems, thus all technology becomes a solution. Coffee, for instance, becomes a workplace alertness solution in a tech marketing context.
Real-world use: “ISWI has a track record of developing and implementing gaming software.” – Steve Johns, president of ISWI
It really means: An organization has been doing something for a while. Whereas once this buzzword relegated itself to resumes, the tech marketing scene now realizes its full force.
Real-world use: “Knowledge Vault will help our customers manage these critical elements while providing rebranded value-add reporting services on infrastructure, activities, security and audit.” – Rainer Maurer, CEO, N3K Network Systems
It really means: A product or service with an additional feature beyond its main scope. Many times value-adds are useless, which might be why this term is so reviled.
Real-world use: “MarketsandMarkets defines the market for mobile marketing based on various solutions, user type, industry verticals, and regions with an in-depth analysis and forecasting of market sizes.”
It really means: A pretentious reference to a particular segment of the economy, like retail, academia, manufacturing, and so forth. Not to be confused with a horizontal.
Real-world use: “Removed file access performance issues and versioning control issues, resulting in less wasted time and a reduction in overhead costs.” – Panzura press materials
It really means: Revising software that works out glitches and adds more features. More egregious verbing of a noun.
Real-world use: The vulnerability allows executable viruses to masquerade as harmless images or other files inside WinRAR archives, thus delivering virus payloads as soon as users attempt to unpack the file.
It really means. For years, we extracted files. We needed another verb to spice it up.
Real-world use: “It’s built for enterprise applications in Healthcare, Financial Services, Energy, Surveillance, High-Performance Computing and emerging Web-scale Applications.” – Joel Wineland, CTO, Racklive
It really means: High performance hardware that’s built to be controlled by software, connect to a network, and hold vast amounts storage. Another word to justify the big price tag.
Real-world use: “The momentum is growing for Virtual Reality and we are thrilled to molding and leading the conversation on transitioning business, entertainment and media from Web 2.0 to the 3D Virtual World.” – Mary Spio, president of Next Galaxy Corp.
It really means: The post-social media Internet. Also known as the Internet.
Real-world use: “”In my nearly 20 years of experience working in enterprise software and network engineering, I’d go so far as to say that [Heartbleed] and [Shellshock] are among the top five most significant zero-day events of all time.” – Jesse Rothstein, CEO, ExtraHop
It really means: A cyber-attack that exploits a previously unknown vulnerability in a computer system or software application. The annoyance factor stems from a semantic disconnect between what the word means and those used to describe it.
Feel free to mention a few of your buzzword pet-peeves in the comments section.