Why Gartner’s hype cycle matters to companies and developers

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“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” - Wayne Gretzky 

Whilst this may be one of the most rehashed quotes for businesses who see themselves as innovative, especially after Steve Jobs used it, it’s an idea that can set innovative companies apart from the laggards. To be seen not only as an innovator, but also as a market leader, companies need to always look at where the World is going to be, not where it has been.

Based on more than 2,000 technologies, Gartner’s hype cycle is designed to help businesses understand what they need to think about moving forward and the technologies that are set to be where the world, and as a consequence, their business should be. 

Gartner has established its Six Business Era Models in the Digital Business Development Path as stage 1: Analog; stage 2: Web; stage 3: E-Business; stage 4: Digital Marketing; stage 5: Digital Business; stage 6: Autonomous

Whilst the majority of readers of DeveloperTech would probably fall into stage 4 or 5 of this scale, there are still a large number of companies stuck in stage 1, 2 and 3. As a result, for 2015, Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said, “We encourage CIOs and other IT leaders to dedicate time and energy focused on innovation, rather than just incremental business advancement, while also gaining inspiration by scanning beyond the bounds of their industry.”

Like many of the developers and mobile experts following DeveloperTech, we at Mubaloo have been pushing exactly this same message for the past few years. The rise of smartphones and other powerful mobile devices such as tablets, have presented a new opportunity to improve the way in which people live and business is done. This has led to other technologies rising in importance, including the cloud and big data. 

It’s not easy though. One of the big challenges larger companies face is the sheer scale of investment required in upgrading systems and the technology its employees use. Yet, the older systems and technology becomes, the more companies fall behind. This impacts operations, as inefficiencies start to creep in with every new technology leap or improvement that companies don’t invest in. It also means forward-thinking competitors, or start-ups are given the opportunity to be disruptive and innovative, leapfrogging ahead of laggards. History is scattered with the remnants of companies who got stuck looking at where the puck had been. 

The hype cycle is focused towards companies who are already in, or are aiming to be in stage 4, 5 and 6 (Digital Marketing, Digital Business and Autonomous). Whilst it’s one thing to be brilliant at marketing, if the experience of dealing with a company doesn’t deliver on user expectations or the business is highly inefficient, it can severely impact on other parts of the business. One reason that many companies will focus on Digital Marketing as the first step is that it doesn’t have to be tied to core operational systems. This means that companies can be more creative and innovative, as activity operates outside of the organisation. 

Another clear reason for businesses to excel on Digital Marketing is that often there are obvious returns to the bottom line from driving customers and sales. This makes return on investment easier to prove as it can be more instantaneous. In many organisations, it is often marketing that is able to be more creative and find new ways to reach end users. 

This correlates with the app market, post 2008, itself. It was apps aimed around marketing activity that flooded onto the App Store at first. Whilst it helped to promote the business it was trying to promote, these apps also acted as a way to promote apps and (to begin with at least) the iPhone. As more people got smartphones that were able to access apps, they started to realise the ways the devices could help them in their work life too.

As the app market has matured, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in demand for business focused apps, as companies realise the value they bring. Whilst many companies may be proficient at digital marketing, today, the most value can often come from focusing more on being a digital business first.

Mobile is now helping companies to do more than just reach customers. Mobile is helping millions of companies improve their operations, lower costs, dramatically improve operations and processes, build business intelligence and a whole raft of other benefits. Companies today need to be Digital Businesses or they risk being eclipsed by competitors. 

Digital Business, in Gartner’s hype cycle, focuses on the stage of the roadmap where there is a convergence of people, business and things. At the moment, this is mainly about the impact the IoT is having, and will have, on business operations. In the Hype Cycle context, Digital Business is the concept of blurring the physical and virtual worlds, where physical assets become digitalised, becoming an integrated part of the business value chain. 

Central to Digital Business is taking a human centric - or as Gartner calls digital humanism - approach where systems and technologies are designed around helping people in their home and work life to be more efficient. 

As discussed last year, BLE beacons are a key technology that will help to make this a reality. One easy way to think of beacons is that they are Web cookies for the physical world. They help to give physical assets not just a digital signature, but can also be used, through enhancements with sensors, to deliver intelligence. 

Beacons is just one example of a technology that is already helping companies innovate with operational improvements. There are many different technologies that help to connect assets. Other technologies that are likely to become important over the next few years include wearables, virtual reality, speech-to-speech translation, IoT, IoT platforms, enterprise 3D printing, machine learning, augmented reality and smart advisors.

All of these things play into each other in many ways. Sensors in the field would feed into an IoT platform that has machine learning. The machine learning identifies that there is an error or issue with a certain part in an asset, which means it may break soon. This would then trigger a 3D printer to print out the faulty part; an engineer would get assigned to the job via their face-based wearable. When installing it, augmented reality would help the engineer follow the right procedure to safely remove the faulty piece and insert the new part.

After the stage of Digital Business comes Autonomous. As we know, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Google and many other car and technology companies have either shown, or are rumoured to be working on autonomous vehicles. These cover everything from cars, right the way to lorries. Autonomous is very much moving into the realm of some of the technologies that you will have seen in films like Her or Minority Report (minus the human precogs of course). 

Clearly, companies don’t need to utilise all of these technologies to innovate or ensure their long term success. Technology for technology's sake is not the answer. Where the power of utilising and understanding new technologies is by focusing on what will solve business issues and help people do their jobs or live their lives.

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