Data-Driven Tech and the Big Plunge


Forget about data and advanced analytics. Fire the team. Lock the door. Take the next two years off, or longer. Half, maybe most, of your pet future projects are heading to Gartner's "Trough of Disillusionment."

Can't you just feel the sand getting sucked out from under your feet as the current tries to pull you off the beach, and into the abyss with the bad ideas of projects past?

You've heard about Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies in the past. It charts where Gartner sees various technologies along life stages from "Innovation Trigger" up to the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" down into the depths of the "Trough of Disillusionment." Then, at some point in the future those technologies that survive cruise happily along the "Slope of Enlightenment," and off to the "Plateau of Productivity."

Of course, the Trough of Disillusionment isn't a death sentence for technologies, but it also isn't good news for the pioneers who promote or work with a technology. At minimum, the trough means a technology gets a bit tarnished and falls from the spotlight. At worst, the trough actually is where once-great ideas get swallowed up.

In the latest version of the hype cycle illustration -- showing some of the 2,000 technologies Gartner evaluated -- a number analytics concepts and technologies that rely heavily on analytics are staring down into the trough from the Peak of Inflated Expections.

Credit: Gartner
Credit: Gartner

The color codes on the chart indicate how many years Gartner expects each technology to take before it reaches that Plateau of Productivity, if ever.

Among the technologies heading downhill fast are wearables, which data pros still hope will feed new business applications, and the AI-related concepts of machine learning, speech-to-speech translation, and natural language queries.

While they aren't truly associated with analytics, you might want to unload those bitcoins while you can, because Gartner has cryptocurrencies heading into the trough, along with the homemade guns and cars that just everyone has been waiting to come out of consumer 3D printers.

On the brink, just waiting to take the plunge are the Internet of Things and autonomous vehicles (both 5 to 10 years from productivity). Expectations for advanced analytics with self-service delivery are at the peak now, but are estimated to be only 2 to 5 years from productivity. I guess that's the only good news for data pros.

Like any research firm, Gartner is going to be right a certain percentage of the time, and probably sort of right with the same frequency. Dead wrong? It happens. In most cases we simply forget who predicted what once four or five years pass. In that way, the researchers can work the data to show how often they were right and ignore their flaws. This hype cycle chart is an annual thing that gets people talking, complaining, and (like me) writing. It's something we can have some fun with, but not something you can bank on.

Which analytics-driven technologies this year are on the verge of settling into long-sought productivity? Nothing. So, if you take the hype cycle too seriously, the near future for analytics might look pretty dire.

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: predictions
  • 9/7/2015 10:02:13 AM
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@kq4ym. Not a lot of VCs go out of business. In fact, if you drive through their parking lots you are likely to see a fair share of Porches and Mercedes.

Re: predictions
  • 9/7/2015 9:41:58 AM
NO RATINGS

While the VC hopes for the homerun to cover for the misses, it would be interesting to see comparisons of hundreds of VCs to see just how many in the mix don't make any profit at all. So maybe the whole idea of smart folks predicting success is actually a flawed presumption if only a smaller amount of firms are successful over the long run?

Re: predictions
  • 8/31/2015 11:28:10 PM
NO RATINGS

Isn't that the way with a lot of professions in life - you have that one big moment that overshadowed by lesser moment. Music artists have that one hit everyone knows, but their record company is relunctant to put out an album that differs from the hit single.  If you're an artist wanting to experiment, you're stuck with the hit everyone knows.  Hey, even Prince struggled with that! ;-)

Re: predictions
  • 8/31/2015 11:11:30 PM
NO RATINGS

Very true about how VCs view the start ups that don't work. No all fail because the product or service was bad - it always boils down to the business model and how the start up operated that model.

Re: predictions
  • 8/24/2015 9:26:32 AM
NO RATINGS

@rbaz. In reality when VCs talk about not having a profitable exit on most of their investments, it doesn't mean that the ideas were stinkers. Yes, the profits from the homerun balance off what the VC loses. But in many cases the technologies that don't provide real payback are worthwhile, just not enough to build a successful company. So a lot of those technologies get absorbed and implemented by other companies. Consider the real "stinkers" that never get funded in the first place, and the Hollywood type of story of startups that VCs never fund but they make it big anyway.

Re: predictions
  • 8/23/2015 7:48:40 PM
NO RATINGS

@Jamescon, that one homerun is the talk and gets paraded, while the many strike outs fade into the Gulag of unmentionables. I guess the payoffs of the winners are so overwhelming that they overshadow the stinkers.

Re: Officially done-zo
  • 8/23/2015 8:59:59 AM
NO RATINGS

Which kinds of wearables?

Re: predictions
  • 8/22/2015 4:25:23 PM
NO RATINGS

Right, Terry. If a VC makes 10 investments, they only need one homerun and a couple of so-so exits to give their investors a decent payback.

Re: predictions
  • 8/22/2015 3:54:36 PM
NO RATINGS

VCs don't even have to achieve that rate of success, Ariella. Like spammers, they need just one big payday to cover all their other crummy bets and keep the lights on for another quarter. That's much more realistic if they can pay a consultancy to pump up the technology or their specific startup. And yet we never seem to tire of the repetitious cycle.

Officially done-zo
  • 8/22/2015 3:51:03 PM
NO RATINGS

"Wearables"? Who on god's green earth is still talking about wearable technology? It's about as current as news on Bernie Madoff's sentencing.

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