Compatibility in the technical sense covers several areas. First, compatibility can describe the ability to connect hardware or software together to exchange data between the elements involved. In addition, the term may refer to the interchangeability of different assemblies, to the compatibility of technical properties, or to the equivalence of technical properties. If two systems meet each other's requirements, they are said to be compatible.

There are various forms of compatibility in IT hardware and software. Binary compatibility refers to operating systems that read data the same way. This makes it possible to transfer data between different systems. If any programs compiled in one operating system run on another system without recompiling, the operating systems are referred to as binary-compatible. Other forms of compatibility include source code compatibility, backward and forward compatibility, incompatibility and error compatibility. The latter refers to hardware or software in which comparable or mutually reinforcing products from different manufacturers have the same defects. This makes them compatible and can be used despite programming errors with error-tolerant software.

In Germany, since the 1970s, special attention has been paid to the compatibility of interfaces, which are commonly referred to as K-interfaces. The compatibility should allow the software development to work more freely and not have to be based on the structure of the individual data centers in the public service.