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Business technology: what's hope, what's hype, what's here to stay

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Gartner, a leading technology analyst firm, recently released its latest "hype cycle" graph for 2009, which shows which technologies are riding the cr...

Gartner, a leading technology analyst firm, recently released its latest "hype cycle" graph for 2009, which shows which technologies are riding the crest of the hype wave, which are at the let-down stage, and which are at the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done phase.

The consultancy has been publishing the hype cycle for a number of years now, documenting which technology approaches are getting more hot air than substance. What's interesting is that every technology initiative -- from PCs to the Internet to smartphones -- has gone through the same predictable 5-10-year pattern in the hype cycle.

Gartner has identified the five key phases that a technology moves through:

Source: Gartner (August 2009)

Technology Trigger: The technology is developed, productized, and introduced to the market.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: The technology is the rage, and it's all vendors, analysts and pundits can talk about. Articles and analyst reports are full of predictions on how the technology will change the world as we know it.

Trough of Disillusionment: The hype bubble pops -- everyone, all at once, gets tired of the seemingly endless hype. Stories emerge about failed implementations, and analysts even declare the technology to have detrimental effects (such as security issues).

Slope of Enlightenment: Vendors, analysts and pundits move on to the next thing to rave about, and companies are left with the solutions they have invested money in sitting on their premises. Managers and IT professionals roll up their sleeves to make the things actually work.

Plateau of Productivity: The technology is operational and delivering results -- and nobody is making a big noisy deal about it, because it is quietly and effectively doing what it was designed to do.

In the latest Gartner hype cycle chart shown above, note what's in the thick of the hype phase, what's in the trough, and what's quietly being deployed.

We see cloud computing and e-book readers (such as Kindle) as all the rage, but ready to drop into the trough of disillusionment, meaning many people are soon going to start finding things wrong with the technologies. We see there is now a lot of disillusionment over RFID sensors -- probably because companies are having difficulties making sense of all the data they are generating.  Emerging from the trough into the working stages are service-oriented architecture -- which has been taking its share of beating from analysts and pundits in recent times -- and speech recognition technologies.

Keeping track of where a technology approach stands in the hype cycle is smart business because it helps companies determine when a solution has matured and is starting to deliver results.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure