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Gartner’s 2009 “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies”: Reflections and prognostications

The 2009 Gartner Hype Cycle Special Report evaluates the maturity of 1,650 technologies and trends in 79 technology, topic and industry areas. I applied the Gartner Hype Cycle Concept to the Web 1.0 Internet Boom and (current) Web 2.0 Slope and found Search to be a key Web 1.0 winner and an overlay of Meritocracy to Search Results to be a big bet for Web 2.0…

Gartner’s Hype Cycle Special Report for 2009

The Gartner Group just published their annual Hype Cycle Report for 2009. You can find the report here.

In an approach similar to that used by the Chasm Group, this report combines Schumpeter’s concepts of Creative Destruction for innovation with the ADKAR model for individual and organization change management. It proposes that new innovations and technologies traverse five stages:

  1. Technology Trigger. When some event or product triggers rapid growth in the use of the technology
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations. When the “bubble of hype” (vs. the achieved results) regarding use of the technology reaches its peak
  3. Trough of Disillusionment. When the bubble bursts and people say, “I told you that was just a fad.”
  4. Slope of Enlightenment. When the technology becomes sufficiently mature, standardized and adopted to start generating mainstream market results
  5. Plateau of Productivity. When these results begin to flatten out and reengineer of use of the technology (or a new technology) is needed to create big productivity changes

The diagram below captures a snapshot of Gartner’s view of “what technologies are where” on the current lifecycle. What has captured the attention of most is that Micro-blogging (e.g., Twitter) is now entering the trough.


A Reflection on The Internet (Web 1.0) Boom

Reports like this always serve as a good trigger for reflection on the past. My experience is not broad enough to look at the entire technology world of the last 10 years. However, I have been lucky enough to have broad experience in the Internet “Web 1.0” boom. Here are my reflections on how three technologies of the Web 1.0 Internet Boom weather Gartner’s Hype Curve:

Big Winner: Consumer-based Search Traversed the Curve Most Successfully

Search radically changed how we live. We no longer spend lots of time looking though reference materials (from newspaper stock prices to encyclopedias) to find information we need. We now use search, enabling us to find information much more successfully.

Companies like Google have shown this can be a moneymaking industry. However the flatting of competition shows the curve on innovation is also flattening. Clearly something new is needed to create the next spike

Work In-Progress: Enterprise-based Search Is Still Stuck in the Slope of Enlightenment

We still do not have equally powerful search techniques inside the enterprise. Imagine how productive we could be if we simple search for answers to basic questions at work (instead of looking for the internal expert with tribal knowledge.)

Today, most enterprise search engines do not use good algorithms, generating results based primary on document titles. This is still an industry where someone could make a killing if they made it easy both to index a wide range of knowledge sources and search on them effectively.

Left Behind: Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging (IM) was incredibly powerful. I still remember the recorded phone call at AOL where a Customer Service agent showed a retired grandmother how to IM her grandchildren, reducing her long distance telephone fees (and making her cry with happiness when she initiated an IM session with her grandson). IM could have been used in so many places to transform how we communicate. However, it devolved into a service supported only by advertising of private network licensing.

This one makes me particularly sad given my years at AOL (especially my work trying to use IM to transform customer service). Imaging how much better it would be if we did not have to wait on hold (and if customer service agents could IM us links to answers). This does exist, but only in niche areas. The big transformation never came.

A Look to the Future of Web 2.0

Reports like this always serve as a good trigger for prognostication on the future (a scary topic that tests our wisdom.) What will be the biggest winner of the current hype cycle? Again, I am not going to try to boil the ocean of all technologies (groups like Gartner can do this much more effectively). However, I will go out on a limb and make a prediction for what will be a big winner in the Web 2.0 world.

I believe Online Meritocracy will be one of the biggest winners. Why? Because it is useful and it is a natural extension of what we do today:

Today we can search for information easily. In our personal life, if we want to find a gardener in zip code 91362 we can do this in seconds. In our work environment, we can also look up a list of approved vendors that we can purchase consulting services from. However, which of these groups are good? Simple Search does not answer that.

Kim Kobza, CEO of Neighborhood America, often shares a statistic that we are 9x as likely to act on recommendations from a friend or colleague than information found in impersonal references. If we can create technologies that enable us to overlay easily searchable feedback with search results, we can really find the information we are seeking. Imagine a world where I can find gardeners that my neighbors in zip code 91362 or consultants that colleagues in my corporate function have had good results from…

This requires combinations of search technology, social networking, content moderation, survey design, location-based searches and other technologies. We have niche versions of this technology today, mostly in the form of destinations (e.g., Angie’s List, Epinions or Amazon Customer Reviews). However, we don’t have the ability to easily stand this up anywhere we need it (e.g., a B2B, vendor or specialist network for my enterprise or integration of meritocracy into Google or Bing results). There is a lot of market share (and money) for the group who make this clear, easy to use and scalable.

Special Follow-up (January 2011)

The last 12 months have shown how social media, recommendations based on what your friends are doing and commerce have all come together in examples like the rise of Groupon and FourSquare.

Wrap-up: Business and technology strategy changes in the Age of Social Networks

First and foremost, we had great attendance (twice the registered attendance–an excellent achievement given that it was the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend) and lots of excellent questions. Second–and equally great–the attendees and panelists spent over 90% of the time discussing the business implications of social networking (rather than dwelling on the latest technology widget or social-network-of-the-week). This was a strong confirmation that social networking is now a mainstream business concern, rather than an experimental concept. (Again, it reminds me of 1999 all over again…)

Here are the top five items that came up over and over in our discussion:

#1. What is the business model for social networking?

I could tell I was at a business school as this was the first question out of nearly everyone’s mouths. It is a very valid question (especially in light of wide swings in valuation of social networking companies).

A key theme I highlighted here was viewing social networking not as a ends unto itself but as a new medium to interact with your customers, staff, stakeholders and partners. Specifically, I discussed how Rodalle (Men’s Health Belly-off and Ink Link), Kodak (Idea Center — now ShutterFly) and a Blue Chip Financial Services Company (I cannot name for at least four more weeks) have incorporated social media into how they interact with their customers to build loyalty and revenue.

#2. What data do you collect, how do you use it?

Here is where I could see EMTM’s strength in showing its students and alumni how to harness technology for business use. Everyone knew that understanding data was key to demonstrating business value.

We discussed the challenges of slicing and mining data that come from many users (UGC, user-generated content) and from understanding these peer-to-peer relationships. Ultimately, we all shared the concept that you need the ability to dimensionally mine data (not just run reports) and integrate these data with the rest of your enterprise’s data warehouses on customers, commerce, direct marketing response, etc. Not enough people are doing this today. Personally, I believe creation of social networking data mining capabilities this will be the biggest expansion area over the next 12-15 months.

#3. How do you reward people for providing UGC?

Basically, when will sharing your information for the fun of it fall out of fashion and become a fad. Some of our panelists thought this would never happen (indicating that Web 2.0 brought on the Age of Online Individualism). I fell back to the classic microeconomic arguement:

People will stop sharing online content and information when the value they obtain from this is no longer worth the effort and risk.

Right now we still have a “in fashion effect” that encourages this sharing. However, the key (as an enterprise) is to use this sharing and interaction to create value for both the enteprise and the network participants. I highlighted who I knew was doing this well: HGTV’s Rate My Space, the same Blue Chip Financial Services Company (I cannot name for at least four more weeks) and the SINdicate (to name a few)…

#4. How do you use this for work with the federal government?

This was the surprise topic. I definitely reflects the state of the economy and reliance on TARP and stimulus spending.

This was the “softball” for me (as the only panelist with public sector social networking experience). I mentioned that the best way to work in the public sector is to align your social networking strategy with the nine modes of public engagement and interagency interaction (identified by Kim Patrick Kobza through his years of experience in this area and discussed in my recent white paper) common at the Federal, State and Local levels of government.

#5. How Does Anyone Make Money Using Twitter?

Twitter was less of the elephant in the room than I expected. However, it came up both in our panelist discussion and the keynote presentation by Guy Kawasaki later in the evening. Guy summed it up well (not surprising, given his presence on Twitter):

Twitter is not about making friends or building relationships. Twitter is a marketing and business development tool. Use it to share your message, search for people discussing similar topics, and direct message them to build and develop business connections. No other technology (outside of those employed by NSA) lets you see what people are talking about and to reach our to people talking about your reason for existence.

Not everyone uses Twitter this effectively (I was happy for the lesson). I will be curious–however–to see what happens when enough people catch on and stop using Twitter to simply talk about themselves: this will reduce the opportunity to see what people are discussing and directly market to them.

Again, it was a great discussion. We had enough questions to go beyond our allotted two hours. It definitely let me know there is a need for these types of panel discussions at more places than Wharton. My thanks to Steve Ennen and Dwight Jaggard for a great day.