Page 1 of 2
Mastering technology adoption cycles requires a disciplined, benefits-led approach. Here's where to start.
Top 10 Technologies for 2009
On The Leading Edge
By Ellen Pearlman
Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino
Fenn is a vice president and Gartner fellow at Gartner Research, heading up their emerging technology management research. She is also the originator of the Gartner Hype Cycle model. Raskino is a vice president and Gartner fellow at Gartner Research. He researches emerging business-technology macro trends.
Mastering technology adoption cycles requires a disciplined, benefits-led approach.
Mastering the Hype Cycle: How to choose the right innovation at the right time, published by Harvard Business Press, October 2008
Front Page, comments by Fenn and Raskino
Hype: promotional publicity of an extravagant or contrived kind...Webster's Dictionary
Anyone who has spent time evaluating technology knows all about hype. As a technology journalist I was inundated with press releases that boldly proclaimed this latest innovation was going to revolutionize business, improve people's lives or cure some of society's ills. Sadly, that was often not the case. After a while I learned to be skeptical of any claim about what a new technology could do...until there was enough evidence to validate the assertion.
One source of information about emerging technologies that has proved to be useful to technologists is Gartner Research's Hype Cycle model, created in 1995 by Jackie Fenn to explain the cycle of hope and disappointment that is common with technology innovations. The Hype Cycle model identifies five cycles of expectation that all technology innovations experience to some degree. The cycles are:
1. The Innovation Trigger—a breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.
2. Peak of Inflated Expectations—a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. Known as the bandwagon effect.
3. Trough of Disillusionment—as time passes and technologies fail to meet expectations, unfavorable stories start to appear in the press and companies realize things aren't as easy as they imagined.
4. Slope of Enlightenment—some early adopters overcome the initial hurdles and begin to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.
5. Plateau of Productivity—as the benefits become widely demonstrated and accepted, growing numbers of organizations feel comfortable with the levels of risk and adopt the technology. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.
Fenn and her coauthor, Mark Raskino, focus on evaluating external innovations in their book Mastering the Hype Cycle. The key, they say, is in how you adopt them. "The choice is not simply whether to be first mover or fast follower. It's about how you time your adoption to leverage market hype about the innovation, how well you judge the shape of the unfolding curves of social sentiment toward that innovation and the engineering progress of its supporting technologies over time," they say.
The number of innovations that you and your organization will have to evaluate will only increase over time as we move from discrete innovation to a state of "perpetual beta." The skills that CIOs and others will need to do this must become second nature and fully half of Fenn and Raskino's book is devoted to helping you do that.
Deciding when to adopt an innovation requires decision makers to balance three factors: how potentially valuable the innovation is to you, how mature the innovation currently is, and how good your organization is at tolerating and managing risk. And while organizations need to recognize their level of risk tolerance, they also need to be able to step outside their comfort zones depending on the strategic importance of an innovation. The key is to be "selectively aggressive" and make sure the innovation is worth the risk, the authors say. From their years of experience helping companies use the hype cycle to evaluate technology innovations, they identify five lessons [link to Hype Cycle lessons text below] that should be applied to all adoption decisions.
Hype Cycle Lessons
1. Decide what's valuable to you and how much risk you'll take to get it.
2. Seek out relevant innovations and track their progress along the hype cycle.
3. Consider alternative candidates.
4. Build in regular evaluation and decision points.
5. Inspire, educate and involve other people.
The biggest obstacle, however, to making good technology adoption decisions is people's inability to follow consistent, systematic approaches to their choices. In other words, the authors believe that people need a disciplined framework that incorporates the lessons of the hype cycle into all adoption decisions. Without a mindful approach, organizations are likely to slip back into a hype-driven adoption based on the lure of the bandwagon," they say. Decisions to adopt or to pass on the innovation need to be deliberate and mindful. The framework they have developed is called the STREET process, which is designed to address the challenges in selecting the right innovation at the right time and then laying the groundwork for its adoption within an organization. The stages of this process are: scope, track, rank, evaluate, evangelize and transfer. The stages should not be done in sequence; in practice this process involves continuous activities among the various stages.
Next: The STEET Process