Gartner Hype Cycle: Live from Midsize Enterprise Summit

Dave Link

This morning I am at the Midsize Enterprise Summit in sunny Orlando Florida. I had the opportunity to sit in on the keynote speaker, Jackie Fenn, VP & Gartner Fellow, who talked about Emerging Trends that you should put on your radar screen.

I didn’t agree with everything that was presented, however there were some interesting points to note that Jackie presented. Her book, “Mastering the Hype Cycle – How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time” and her creation of the Gartner Hype Cycle are both impressive professional accomplishments worth noting. So what is it that actually drives us (technologists) to pay attention to the new trends in the 2, 3, 5, 10 years out technologies?

Several of the traits that Jackie looks for:

  • A fundamental new invention
  • Performance breakthroughs
  • Viral adoption levels
  • Dramatic price reductions
  • Instant usability access (as is happening at an accelerated pace today)

So what is the hype cycle of innovation? A pattern we see over and over again with emerging technologies. It includes a technology trigger, followed by a peak of inflated expectations, a trough of disillusionment, a slope of enlightenment, and finally a plateau of productivity. An example of that cycle is below. blog-201105-ss20110505-09-55-56


 Click image to enlarge. This is the Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing that was published in July of 2010.

So what are the Traps in the hype cycle?

  • Adopting too early – collapse under the internal business pressure
  • Giving up too soon – under the disillusionment period you give up too early (such as RFID which you tried early but them dropped because of cost and complexity)
  • Adopting too late – because you gave up too early, you don’t benefit in the slope of enlightenment and thus are disadvantaged from your competitors
  • Hanging on too long – having to buy parts on e-bay to keep an older innovation running beyond its useful life (legacy applications)

A best practice from Gartner – create your own customer hype cycle each year and then be selectively aggressive – is there anything here that can be particularly useful, and is there anything here that we’re not using and was it a deliberate decision, or did we just miss it?

What are the technology trends Jackie and Gartner are currently tracking on the hype cycle? One particular trend is the inexorable march of consumerization, starting with e-mail and instant messaging and moving to tablets and laptops, and now the application layer — the next frontier = data. The first two trends are for the sake of completeness:

  • Software social media – two areas for you to consider:
    • Using social media as an analytical source — people are talking about your business, so use sentiment analysis and tap in to get great focus group information.
    • Crowdsourcing and collective intelligence — how to get open innovation and ideation to have customers provide great ideas to rapidly assist with your complex business problems. For example, Netflix offered a 1 million dollar prize to increase the performance of an algorithm by at least 10%. It was incredibly successful at collapsing the time and energy needed to accomplish this complex business goal.
  • Cloud Computing – 3 years ago it was one dot on the hype cycle, now it is 25+ dots – there is tons of activity here, as you can see in the graphic above.

Beyond the obvious hype cycle items above what else is Gartner tracking?

  • Media tablets – in the current cycle because of delivering value and they are so readily accessible and cost effective. The result being, companies are seeing clear value to provide tablets as manuals via printing costs which offers a clear ROI for this use profile.
    • Thoughts: You need to check this trend out and see how it applies to your business right now — consumer pressure is very high and is justified!
  • Predictive Analytics – New data sources offer brand New insights. Consider the iPhone and the GIS tracking information on your phone location.
    • Thoughts: How will this information be used in the future? In my opinion this is a key driver for the exponential growth in storage.
  • 3D printing has recently hit a price shift – from $200K to $10K
    • Thoughts: Primarily used in industrial prototyping – envision the Star Trek replication device by sending the design specification to another user at a different location where the part can be quickly replicated.

One key thing to remember is that you (the technologist) often have to play an important role in evangelizing new technology to help your organization understand how they will benefit from this technology and how it will be put into action as part of the corporate vision.

At this point, Gartner has created around 80 hype cycles for different technologies. That is just way too much to look at in parallel, so my suggestion is to keenly follow a few of these technology innovations, while adopting a process to avoid hype cycle driven reactive technology selection mistakes.

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