Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hype Cycle

This week I’m attending Gartner’s ITExpo in Orlando, you can read more about it at their blog. I arrived at the hotel a few minutes ago – it’s strange to see thousands of middle-aged guys milling around with the 2 year-old Mickey Mouse set.

Gartner’s a strange beast, the 200 pound gorilla of the IT industry that can make or break markets, companies, and products. They started out in 1979 and now have almost 4,000 employees, of which about 1,200 are analysts. Forrester and IDC are the only other companies that really compete in terms of size and influence. IT is complex, and there’s not doubt that these companies add a lot of value by providing insight and context on how to make technology effective and productive. And from a marketing perspective, these firms are hugely influential.

Gartner has a concept called the Hype Cycle, which they apply to IT trends and new technologies, but which I’d love to see applied to diets, cars, bands, or movie stars. What’s strange about the Hype Cycle is that is can become a self-fulfilling prophecy – the very act of Gartner placing something on the curve elevates it and gives it new buzziness. Forrester famously got into trouble when the Internet bubble burst, and the Wall Street Journal showed how they’d fuelled positive forecasts for companies and markets right up until they’d collapsed. Some are seeing similar over-hype around the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon, which is a major theme at the Gartner event.

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