“How long have we got?” has been one of the constant themes in my discussion about ‘Why do companies do what they do?’ in earlier posts. It therefore seems appropriate to end the series with this chart from analysts Gartner, which aims to answer exactly that question for a number of major technology developments.

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Its format highlights the important role of hype in the process by which technology is adopted.  If you haven’t heard about something, it’s unlikely you are going to start using it.  And the media are always looking for “the new, new thing” with which to entertain their audiences.  Take a look, for example, at Gartner’s top picks in its last assessment:

  • The internet of things and Big Data are right up there at the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations, yet Gartner assess them both as being at least 5-10 years away from the ‘Plateau of Productivity’, along with wearable user interfaces
  • Even further away are ideas such as quantum computing, which probably have more than 10 years of hard labour in the lab ahead of them
  • Yet some areas such as content analytics, hybrid cloud computing and cloud computing are happily moving well beyond the hype phase

One of the virtues of the chart is that it highlights how perceptions can be quite different from the real state of development.  Many people have indeed become disillusioned with cloud computing over the years.  And so, even though it is now finally getting close to realising its potential, it is at the very bottom of the Trough of Disillusionment.  On the more positive side is Enterprise 3D printing, which I discussed last month.  It may share a name with consumer 3D printing, but is far removed from it in terms of perception and applicability, as it moves steadily up the Slope of Enlightenment. 

 

Of course, one of the purposes of Gartner’s chart is to prompt discussion amongst the developers and managements responsible for bringing these devices to market.  ‘Why are we seen as being at this point in the chart?’ is a question that needs to be discussed and answered.  Even more important is the follow-up, ‘What can we do to move ourselves forward faster?’

 

Technology development doesn’t operate according to fixed laws, as we have seen when looking at the ‘4 Valleys’ chart.  Reasonable people can, and should, disagree about the current state of development.  And one needs to watch carefully for the brainwave that can suddenly propel a technology into ‘fast forward’ mode, as Apple did with speech recognition software – now seen as less than 2 years from reaching its plateau.

 

And, of course, the word “plateau” is a warning sign in itself. Once the technology has finally arrived, how long will it survive?  Will it be a Napa Valley-type product, still in use decades later?  Or will it be a typical Silicon Valley product, destined for a museum before very long?         

 

Gartner are due to bring out their latest assessment next month. I can’t wait for it to appear.

 

This post is number four in a series written by Paul Hodges about the timelines various

companies might face and the decisions that must occur based on those specific situations.

You can read all four blog posts and download your own copy HERE!

 

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Paul Hodges is chairman of International eChem (www.iec.eu.com), trusted advisers to the chemical industry and its investment community. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Industrial Council on chemicals, advanced materials and biotechnology, and presents the ACS ‘Chemistry & the Economy’ webinars.