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How to explain IT to your boss

Explain IT to your boss

If you are an assistant or have worked as one, then you know how difficult it can be to explain IT terms to your boss. It may come as a surprise, but there are many execs who do not know what the Cloud is, how contention ratio affects their online experience or what VoIP really means.

This post offers tips on how to deliver explanations that anyone can understand.

How to not approach explaining tech

Do not approach your boss in a way that makes them feel stupid. If you do this, they will not ask you to explain something to them again. This is bad for you because you could lose an opportunity to get involved in a future project. And getting involved is key to getting ahead.

For example, avoid:

“Everyone knows how this works…”

“It’s simple, I cannot really explain it…”

Your boss wants to learn

If your boss has asked you to explain how something works, they are doing so for a reason. That is, they are not striking up conversation because they have nothing else to do. 

Don’t overdo the detail

Avoid too much technical detail. Say what you want to say and move on. However, don’t skip a topic just because you think your boss will not understand; they might surprise you.

Don’t rely on words alone

Visual works. If you are explaining a difficult concept, try to find a diagram of the concept online.

Don’t pretend to know if you do not

If you do not know how something works, say you will find out. If you are willing to do research your boss will notice your enthusiasm, and more importantly, will know that information they get from you is reliable because you are honest.

How to explain the Cloud

The best explanation of the Cloud I ever heard: It is not a cloud at all, it is like a server you can save documents on. The difference is that the server is in an offsite data centre and not here in the office.

 This explanation accomplishes two things:

  1. It explains that documents are actually stored on hardware and software systems
  2. It explains that ‘Cloud’ facilitates “work from anywhere”

The next question will of course be a security question, which you should not answer with a blanket “yes it’s secure”. Remember, your Cloud provider and your access passwords are important aspects of security.

How to explain AI (within the online space)

AI is “Artificial Intelligence”. AI is used to predict or recommend, for example, what customers will buy or want to see. Amazon is a great example of a company that uses AI to improve customer experience.

How to explain VoIP

VoIP is “Voice over Internet Protocol”. That is, voice over the internet. Instead of making a call on a traditional telephone that runs over a copper wire, VoIP is the technologies we use to makes calls over the internet. 3CX explains: “To place calls via VoIP, a user will need a software based sip phone program OR a hardware based VoIP phone. Phone calls can be made to anywhere and to anyone.”

How to explain contention ratio

With everything moving to fibre I am throwing this one in.

Imagine two highways of the same size but a different number of lanes each. The first highway has 10 lanes, and the second has 20. The highway illustrates that contention is the amount of space that is shared between users using the same line, and also explains that 10:1 is better than 20:1. In technical terms, if the contention is 20:1 it means that 20 broadband customers are sharing the same bandwidth at any one time.  

PCN explains it like this: “If you buy a 100 MBps Business Fibre product at a 10:1 contention ratio, ONLY 10 MBps is actually yours.”

How to explain a hashtag

A hashtag places a word or a phrase in a category. For example, if you want to see what people are saying about Comic Con Africa, search for #Comicconafrica. So, hashtags bring all posts that refer to the same topic together.  

I hope this post gives you an indication of how you can approach explaining IT terms. If there are any terms you are finding difficult to explain, or you do not fully understand, let us know. Maybe we can help.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash


3CX n.d., VoIP Definition, 3CX, viewed 27 September 2019, <>

PCN Fibre and Wireless Internet 2018, FIBRE INTERNET: WHAT IS CONTENTION RATIO? – PCN EXPLAINS, PCN, viewed 27 September 2019, <>

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