In 1995, Gartner came out with one of its most enduring memes, the “Gartner Hype Cycle.” Like Kubler-Ross' grief model, it has five stages: Technology Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, and Plateau of Productivity.
And ever since, industry pundits love to be the one to pinpoint when a technology has entered the Trough of Disillusionment. No other stage seems to garner half as much interest.
“The Trough means that market dynamics have changed,” writes Gartner analyst Mark Beyer. “There are false claims of simplicity and promises beyond reason which should be carefully vetted and even ignored in favor of maturing solutions. It means that among the honest vendors, a few charlatans selling ‘cheap knock-off merchandise’ from the back of their shady parking lot truck have arrived. Legitimate vendors and legitimate solutions will be confounded by these itinerant peddlers who offer lower prices for shiny trinkets that glitter then break under the first strain. As the Trough deepens, everyone will start to think the practices and solutions are failures because of this unwarranted dilution in the market offerings. And then the very real and highly valuable progress big data contributes to IT and computer science could be lost.”
It’s not surprising, then, that a crowd of tech pundits are eager to burst our bubble about trends they were all convinced were going to save our lives just a few months ago.
The biggest one? Big data — which is pretty much the whipping boy for overrated tech trends. Svetlana Sicular tagged it as falling into the Trough of Disillusionment earlier this year, but since she actually is from Gartner, she’s entitled. Once Gartner had branded it with the scarlet ToD, a swarm of other analysts and pundits leaped on the bandwagon, claiming they’d known it all along.
Other overrated tech trends? InformationWeek recently published “7 Tech Trends CIOs Call Overrated,” which in addition to “big data” contains a number of trends that were super-hot just a few short months ago:
- Cloud computing (twice — for ROI and for ease of use — they couldn’t just put it in once and call it “6 Tech Trends”?
- Business-tech misalignment
- Consumerization of IT
- Tech panaceas
Based on the rising volume of tech chatter, gamification and 3D printing are also headed downhill pretty soon.
It’s hardly surprising when a new technology, or any big change for that matter, doesn’t meet the huge expectations people have for it. Like infatuation that makes way to love, our relationship with a new technology or idea inevitably drops back to a more realistic view of its capabilities, warts and all.
Which is why the rush to judgment — or the rush to trough — is such a problem. Emphasizing the trough — without paying attention to any the following stages — teaches people to focus on the negative and in general makes them more cynical about new technologies that could simplify and enhance their lives. If it’s just going to fail anyway, why get invested in it? Why even try?
And when pundits hurry to be the “first” to declare a given technology dead, they short-change the organizations they should be trying to help. A short hype/trough cycle doesn’t give members of the C-Suite enough time to figure out how a new technology could improve their operations. It also makes it more difficult for them to lobby within their organizations to make positive changes happen.
The result is like the people who break up with someone after the first date because they “know” it’s not going to go anywhere, rather than allowing the relationship to go through its stages — whether that’s a mature love relationship, or death.
Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.
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