Enlightenment - when the press gets bored with a technology

Nothing can sound more cynical – yet be more valid - than Gartner’s Hype Cycle and its definitions of the progress different technologies are making or are likely to make in the market.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  August 13, 2006

|~||~||~|Nothing can sound more cynical – yet be more valid - than Gartner’s Hype Cycle and its definitions of the progress different technologies are making or are likely to make in the market.

Take its "Slope of Enlightenment" definition. That’s when a market for a new technology is still developing even though the press may have stopped covering it. While the press rushes off to find some new wow factor, businesses continue up the "slope” experimenting to better understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.

Then there is the "Trough of Disillusionment". Technologies enter hit this when they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.

But beneath all this cynicism Gartner delivers a very valuable service to CIOs in that it looks beyond all the hype produced by vendors, the press, and, many would say, itself and the rest of the analyst community to try to present a realistic and more balanced picture of an emerging technology’s chance of success.

Its message is: Don't invest in a technology just because it is being hyped, and don't ignore a technology just because it is not living up to early expectations. And this applies despite the changes in specific technologies over the years.

For example, whereas technologies such as VOIP and internal Web services have climbed the Slope of Enlightenment and are now wallowing on the Plateau of Productivity, upcoming technologies are hanging on to the Peak of Inflated Expectations and are unlikely to reach Nirvana for a few years.

Of those that have just hit the peak or on their way trough-wards are three key technology themes comprising numerous different components. They are Web 2.0, RealWorld Web and Applications Architecture, according to Gartner’s latest 2006 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle, which assesses the maturity, impact and adoption speed of 36 key technologies and trends during the next 10 years.

“The emerging technologies hype cycle covers the entire IT spectrum but we aim to highlight technologies that are worth adopting early because of their potentially high business impact,” said Jackie Fenn, Gartner Fellow and inventor of the first hype cycle.

Because planners must determine which opportunities relate most closely to their organisational requirements, Garner has added a new feature in the cycle called a ‘priority matrix’. This clarifies a technology’s potential impact - from transformational to low – and the number of years it will take before it reaches mainstream adoption.

It’s all very sensible, but being the Hype Cycle, an element of cynicism had to creep in from Ms Fenn when she recommended: “Be selectively aggressive — identify which technologies could benefit your business, and evaluate them earlier in the Hype Cycle. For technologies that will have a lower impact on your business, let others learn the difficult lessons, and adopt the technologies when they are more mature.”

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