Is the Technology Hype-Cycle of any use?

Every year, around the month of July, Gartner publishes Hype-Cycles on different technologies. There are more than 150 of them for different technologies and domains. The one that I have been following closely over the years is the Hype-Cycle on Emerging Technologies.

For those of you who are not very familiar with what a Hype-Cycle is, here is a brief explanation:

The assumption behind it is that every new technology creates an initial hype when everybody is talking about it. As a result an inflated expectation gets created around that technology. Since new technologies takes time to mature and deliver value, it very rarely lives up to the initial hyped expectation. Therefore, after a peak of inflated expectation disillusionment follows till it reaches a trough. After this, some technologies dies a natural death and are forgotten. However, the are some which starts delivering value and people starts adopting them. When sufficient number of people adopt it, the technology is said to have reached the mainstream. The hype-cycle is represented as a graph and each technology of interest is plotted on the graph. Gartner also predicts the timeframe of each technology to reach mainstream.

The is expected to act as a guide for organizations to take decision on technology investment.

My experience with hype-cycle has nicely followed the hype-cycle. Initially, when I came across this concept, it looked like a brilliant idea. You can look back on the adoption pattern of most accepted technologies and you feel that it has gone through the hype-cycle. Therefore, I used to eagerly await the yearly release of the hype-cycle and it used to form a key component in my technology recommendation to my organization.

However, after following it for 3 to 4 years, I have reached the trough of disillusionment!

Let me give you some evidence to present my case. My apologies for presenting all the evidence from only the hype-cycle on emerging technologies as that is the one I have been studying in detail.

Brief Statistics

There are 120 distinct technology names mentioned between 2003 to 2008. I have taken care to combine similar terms. The statistical distribution of how many times these are mentioned are as follows:

  • Only once – 74
  • Twice – 23
  • Thrice – 12
  • Four times – 5
  • Five times – 3
  • Six times – 3

It looks like they pickup technologies casually and drop it. In other words, out of the 27 technologies mentioned in 2008, more than half those terms are likely to be dropped from the 2009 hype-cycle.

Let me also point out some more inconsistencies!

There are only 3 technologies mentioned in 2003 which has survived in 2008!

  • RFID
    • 2003: Passive Radio Frequency Identification – at the peak (2-5 years to reach main stream)
    • 2004: RFID (Item) – on the rise & RFID (Case/Pallet) – sliding Into the trough
    • 2005: RFID (Passive)- sliding into the trough — what happened to the distinction between Item & Case/Pallet?
    • 2006: RFID (Item) & RFID (Case/Pallet) – sliding into the trough
    • 2007: RFID (Item) & RFID (Case/Pallet) – sliding into the trough
    • 2008: RFID (Case/Pallet) – sliding into the trough — what happened to Item? & how long will it slide?
  • Location aware applications
    • 2003: Location-Aware Services – climbing the slope (2-5 years to reach main stream)
    • 2004: Location “Aware” Services – climbing the slope
    • 2005: Location-Aware Applications – climbing the slope
    • 2006: Location-Aware Applications – climbing the slope & Location-Aware Technology – sliding Into the trough — why did Location-Aware Technology suddenly make an appearance?
    • 2007: Location-Aware Applications & Location-Aware Technology – climbing the slope
    • 2008: Location-Aware Applications – climbing the slope — how log will it climb the slope? & why did Location-Aware Technology disappear?
  • Electronic paper
    • 2003: Electronic Ink/Digital Paper – on the rise (5-10 years to reach main stream)
    • 2004: Electronic Ink/Digital Paper – at the peak
    • 2005: Electronic Ink/Digital Paper – at the peak
    • 2006: Digital Paper/E-Paper – at the peak — what happened to Electronic Ink?
    • 2007: Electronic Paper – sliding into the trough — what happened to Digital Paper?
    • 2008: Electronic Paper – sliding into the trough

The curious story of SOA

  • 2003: No mention!
  • 2004: Sliding into the trough
  • 2005: Sliding into the trough
  • 2006: Ditched in favor of the term Event-Driven Architecture and shown as on the rise
  • 2007: Makes a comeback and again sliding into the trough
  • 2008: Finally climbing the slope

There are several questions that comes to mind.

  1. Why did SOA not find a place in 2003?
  2. Why did it start its life in the hype-cycle by sliding through the trough?
  3. When did it climb the slope & when did it reach the peak?
  4. In 2006 there was a detailed explanation on why SOA term has been dropped and the term Event-Driven Architecture is used. Then, why does it not figure in 2007 & 2008?
  5. Is it because the term SOA is not coined by Gartner?

Other Interesting titbits

  • Web 2.0 finds a mention only in 2006 — The term was coined in 2003. What happened to it 2004 & 2005?
  • Terms like AJAX(2006-sliding through the trough), Folksonomy(2006-at the peak) & Podcasting(2005-on the rise) is mentioned only once — Are these technologies not in use any more?
  • Semantic Web makes periodic appearance: (2003-on the rise), (2004-at the peak) & (2007-sliding trough the trough) — what happened to it in 2005 & 2006? where is it in 2008?
  • Corporate blogging has been sliding through the trough on 2005, 2006 & 2008 — when did it climb the slope? what happened to in it 2007?
  • Smart phones was sliding through the trough on 2003 & 2004, goes missing on 2005 but is seen climbing the slope on 2006 only to disappear again — Did it reach the mainstream adoption or has it dropped of the curve?

I can go on and on.

You can form your own opinion but I have stopped relying on it!

Though the actual report is a paid report, you can still have a look at the hype-cycle graph by searching for images in google with the term “gartner hype cycle emerging technologies”. You will get most of the hype cycles. You can include the year also to locate a specific year. However, 2004 hype-cycle seem to be missing but you can have a look at the table of content.

6 Responses to “Is the Technology Hype-Cycle of any use?”
  1. Anon says:

    Hype cycle – over hyped?.. Looks like the Gartners had been getting some kickbacks to hype few unwanted technologies.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Is the Technology Hype-Cycle of any use? Comments (1) […]

  2. […] Filed under: Hype-Cycle — setandbma @ 5:12 pm Last year I had made a post on Is the Technology Hype-Cycle of any use?. In that I had criticized the “Emerging Technologies Hype-Cycle” for its lack of […]

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