Gartner Says, Sometimes Hype is Necessary

Fact: Gartner is taking the same approach they often critique with their normally-solid “Hype Cycle” reports – arguing that “a little cloud hype” is beneficial if it “captures the imaginations of a broader audience of decision makers.”

Analysis: With their annual “Hype Cycle” reports, Gartner usually does a solid job of tracking over-optimistic assessments of the “latest and greatest” in technology and calling out overly hyped “hot new tech” and providing realistic assessments of the projected future of trends in software, hardware, and business processes.

Sometimes, Gartner slips up, and falls prey to the error they ascribe to others.  That’s the only interpretation I can make on a curious blog posting on an official Gartner blog designed to promote their new book “Mastering the Hype Cycle: Choosing the Right Innovation at the Right Time.”  Mark Raskino, the book’s co-author with longtime analyst Jackie Fenn, argues that “We have to simplify the business proposition behind this ‘big shift’,  explain it well and socialize it deeply to convince non-tech business leaders to buy-in.” 

Mr. Raskino makes clear that he wants to babytalk these business-side executives into believing “a little cloud hype” because, in his words, IT leaders and CIOs “need help explaining the fundamental change.”

I haven’t read the book; it may be a fine work with other (more valuable) insights. After all, it’s published by Harvard Business Press; here’s the Amazon page for it, you can read it and judge for yourself, as I likely will. But this blog posting is an official one on Gartner’s own site, promoting their book by their analysts, so the firm bears accountability for this curious approach.

In the blog posting, Mr. Raskino sums up his case on “hyping the buzz” about cloud computing as follows:

It’s too simplistic to say cloud hype is bad. If we are technically expert is might irritate us with its breadth and abstraction, but we are not the only audience.  Somehow the idea has to  cross the corridor into other business departments and that’s just as likely to be via a Business Week article or even (dare I say it?) an airline in-flight magazine.  Whether we like it or not, repeatedly promoting a basic collective term through broader media has a long history of overcoming corporate resistance and inertia in ways IT departments can’t do alone. ‘The cloud’ is a BIG idea, its a reasonable visual metaphor and most of all its not an acronym.  It may not be perfect, but if it captures the imaginations of a broader audience of decision makers we should cut it some slack. 

My opinion is that the technology of cloud services is developing at a blistering pace, and adoption rates are incrementally moving along at an appropriately lagged step behind the technology.  Perhaps we need to clarify our definitions of words like “hype” and “buzz,” and more importantly distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate “technical education.”

Marketing the promise of cloud services is fine; intentionally “hyping” the technology is unnecessary and will be counterproductive. Why on earth does Mr. Raskino think technologies wind up going through a “trough of disillusionment” on Gartner’s own hype cycle?  Is that now supposed to be a desirable thing?

Ah, got that off my chest. Feels better. Breathing deeply, calming down, taking the long view.  In fact, taking the long view is something I advise to those (like Mr. Raskino) who are too focused on hyping technology’s advance, not building it.  Here’s a suggestion: look back several years and read something you wrote about the future, and see what lessons you can learn from history and your attempt to predict it.

An enjoyable read along those lines is the legendary Charles Simonyi’s piece from this summer, “Programmers at Work: Follow Up.”  Simonyi (of Xerox PARC, early Microsoft, and space tourism fame) reflects on an interview from two decades ago, with some fascinating observations about advances in programming languages and practices, software, education, aviation… it’s a thought-provoking read from an entertainingly complex fellow. (Maybe that’s what Martha Stewart saw in him for the 20 years they dated.)


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4 Responses

  1. Good article!
    I’d like to add my own views :
    There are instances when hype creates all the difference between evenly placed products which are more or less of same quality. It is manifest that Nike is qualitatively at par with Adidas and Reebok, if not better. But Nike Manages to find the best brand ambassadors that fits its image. Nike shot to fame in the 1985 Basketball Season when they sponsored Michael Jordan. In a dramatic break with the tradition where only white shoes were allowed in NBA matches before, Michael Jordan endorsed the Nike Brand in a rebellious fashion by wearing varied coloured shoes apart from white. This created a cult following for Nike and teenagers worldwide swore by the Nike Brand. In fact, I’ve written a whole article on the importance of hype on my Blog.
    Chirag

  2. Chirag, thanks for the comment – agree with your observation, and Nike is a classic example. Your blog post makes a good one as well regarding the Francis Bacon painting, and frankly I’ve never been a fan of his art🙂

  3. Thanks a lot for reading my blog!!
    I think you write great stuff here – looking forward to new posts eagerly…

  4. The “trough of disillusionment” is desirable, in part because your disillusionment (or better yet, anger) with one disappointing technology motivates you to do improvement.

    Consider the alternative – once you buy into something, you’re stuck in a rut of mediocrity, where you never escape from it because nothing else ever gets enough hype to poke you out of your inertia.

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