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Digital Disruption Demands Demystification (Hype Cycle Season)

by Hank Barnes  |  August 22, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

Okay, okay, my title is alliteratively overwhelming, but at a time when seemingly every article talks about disruption, it is important to separate hype from reality.   Gartner Hype Cycles are designed to help the technology buyer do just that (and, by extension, help the technology provider community adapt their approaches to market realities).

We are in the 2017 Hype Cycle season.  There are now over 100 hype cycle documents (new for 2017) available on   Betsy Burton and I also published an overview document that helps put all of this into context, “2017 Hype Cycles Highlight Enterprise and Ecosystem Digital Disruptions: A Gartner Trend Insight Report.” (Client Access).   A page highlighting the special report can be found here.

There are several broad themes to this year’s hype cycle, with a particular focus on disruption and disruptive opportunities.  In the context of disruption, some of these are still at the innovation trigger stage–being used by some brave souls willing to take a change and deal with challenges of new technologies (or applications of technology).  Broadly, Gartner sees AI and human-centered design in this stage.   Further along the curve is customer experience and intimacy.   Some grouping are moving toward the trough of disillusionment, as the hype grows without being replaced by enough tangible examples and paths to success.   Finally the core areas of the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social, and information) are rapidly moving toward the plateau of productivity.   Exploring the details will help you have appropriate expectations as you embark on your change initiatives.


Please note that within these areas the detailed elements will appear at all phases of the hype cycle, but this collective view provides a perspective on large trends.

As you explore hype cycles this year, a few reminders:

  • Technologies can appear on multiple hype cycles based on use cases, industries, or other factors.  And they might be at different stages. Once you find a technology of interest in a hype cycle, check for it in other ones.
  • Make sure you go beyond the graphic and review the technology profiles, they reveal key details that can help guide decision-making and prioritization.  The graphic never tells the whole story.
  • If you are a tech provider, remember that hype cycles are written not for you, but for your customers.   But you can interpret that information and apply it to your business.  Betsy and I have another research note that explores this: “Tech Go-to-Market: Using Gartner Hype Cycles to Refine Technology Marketing Strategies and Tactics” (Gartner subscription required)

And finally, one last point that many people seem to forget.   If a technology falls off the hype cycle, it is not a bad thing.  It means that that technology has made it to the mainstream market.   Customers can be comfortable that there are a variety of choices, proven paths to success, and the possibility of cost savings.  For providers, it means they are at the stage where most of the spending happens.  The investments in getting to that point can now pay off.  (Note: The only exception to this is for technologies that become “obsolete before the plateau.”  That, indeed, is not a great thing.)  The mainstream is where the real money is made.

Not everything disrupts and not everything has the same disruptive impact.   Furthermore, any change brings with it challenges.  Use Gartner Hype Cycles, and your own knowledge, to set realistic expectations for effort, impact, and challenges.   It will help bring a bit of emotional reality to your project efforts.  If you wish to learn more about the different Gartner Hype Cycles, go here.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: disruption  hype-cycle  strategy  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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