I have recently read with interest various Gartner hype-cycle reports. There is an example here, and here is wikkipedia’s comment on it. The idea is fairly simple, and based on the adjustment trend that new technology tends to go through towards gaining mainstream adoption. Once a technology is started it tends to gain an undeserved (according to its current capability) reputation to be the best thing that will save the world. As this continues people realise it actually has some limitations, and so it loses credibility rapidly. The story then continues as people realise that it is useful, even with its limitations, and so the reputationbuild again. To anyone that has been around a bit none of this is news.
What Garner have done it to convert this trend into a pseudo-scientific analysis method, and then to look at various technology areas in this light. The result is a set of reports that looks at areas of technology and state where on the curve the various technologies are, and predict how long it will take before the technology gains mainstream adoption. The reports make for interesting reading, but should people use Gartner’s opinion within them in order to develop their strategy. To say the least the idea of the hype-cycle has its negative side, as illustrated by this article.
The challenge is that the hype cycle is basically a Gartner opinion about the future, and any opinion about the future is likely to be wrong. This needs to be borne in mind if you are planning to develop a strategy based on the hype-cycle. So what could this hype-cycle be used for? My own though is that it is reasonable to use it to consider which technologies are most likely to be of use to you in the future. That is, to prioritise the application of you own analysis.
The reports contain a summary of each technology, and this can be used to consider whether it would be applicable to you if worked fully. The position in the hype-cycle and the length of time Gartner predicts to full acceptance, however, should be considered in the light of the potential benefit of the technology to you. To make a decision, if the technology has sufficient potential value then it is worth trying to build a serious case for whether it is worth being on the bleeding edge of this one. In doing so, however, be aware that working on the bleeding edge has its own management challenges that need to be considered and mitigated.