Hype Cycle thoughts

Gartner’s Hype Cycle is one of the most widely recognised technology assessment tools. Right now, in the run-up to Gartner’s Symposium season, there’s activity around this so a review is timely.

Before I forget: well worth watching the Gartner website while Symposium progresses round the world, because some keynotes tend to be webcast for open access. Symposium was in Orlando last week, and comes to Europe next month (Barcelona, 7-10 Nov, since the Cannes facility isn’t available this year).

First off, of course, the Hype Cycle concept has exploded in the past few years. It has, though, gone through its own hype cycle and is now, I suggest, on its Plateau of Productivity. Not least because Gartner, under Jackie Fenn’s tutelage, have surrounded it with other related tools and a much better published understanding of how it should be used. It’s not an easy guide to where to invest (or not); it’s more a guide to what the parameters are for an investment decision as technologies move through what is, in fact, a version of an economist’s standard adoption cycle.

Right now, there’s a short video from Jackie on Gartner’s home page outlining what the hype cycle is and how it’s intended to be used (C S Lewis’s “corkscrew or cathedral” test). And there are some overview reports on Gartner’s library which, if you’re registered as a free user, you can access in full. These list all the current Hype Cycle reports – though these, of course, are not on open access.

Gartner added their “Market Clock” some while ago, and now have released a tool called the Priority Matrix which partitions emerging technologies according to their potential benefit (from “low” to “transformational”) and (estimated) time to mainstream adoption. There’s a note on its use in the Hype Cycle 2011 review. I think what’s missing, here and elsewhere – though I’m not sure how you’d bring it in to the tool – is how to factor in an organisation’s risk appetite and strategy. Do you want to be transformed? Can you afford not to be?

Gartner’s list of around 90 current Hype Cycles covers Technology and Appplication; Information and IT Services; and vertical Industry sectors. Clients can also make use of the data through the My Hype Cycle toolkit, which can filter data for a specified subset of the 1800 technologies covered by the reports and create a tailored Hype Cycle graphic for use in internal strategy discussions.

My own guide to using the Hype Cycle is embodied in this comment I added to some verses posted on the Mastering the Hype Cycle blog two and a half years ago. The blog, incidentally, has emerged from a dormant period and is publishing again.

The strategists won’t allow hype to dictate:
It’s a servant to them, not a master.
They let it inform, and they factor the risk
‘Twixt competitive edge and disaster.

Or they hold for a while, till it’s over the peak –
Or even invest in the trough,
When the prices are low, and there’s knowledge around
To ensure the return is enough.

Hype can be a snare: but provides a great guide
If your buyer’s informed and is practical,
And knows when investment is for the long haul
Or when it’s short term, and is tactical.

• Hype Cycles 2011, Gartner website section, with links to these downloadable documents:
•• Gartner’s Hype Cycle Special Report for 2011, 2 Aug 2011
•• Understanding Hype Cycles, 19 Jul 2011
•• Toolkit: My Hype Cycle, 2011, 12 Sep 2011
• Gartner IT Market Clock website section, and see also:
•• Understanding Gartner’s IT Market Clocks, 2011, 8 Sep 2011
• Technology adoption lifecycle, Wikipedia
The Hype Cycle as Art part 2 – poetry, Mastering the Hype Cycle, 27 Mar 2009 (see comment)
Gartner Symposium


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