Boiling oceans, tornados, and fault lines

In FCW’s OMB will measure EA use, Dick Burk, OMB’s chief architect, says: “You can’t boil the ocean.”

In the same article, Con Kenney, Federal Aviation Administration chief architect says: “The most likely model for enterprise architecture adoption is along Geoffrey Moore’s crossing-the-chasm method”.

Let’s look at that. The Crossing the Chasm model that Geoffrey Moore describes in his famous 1991-book by that name is inspired by Everett Rogers’ classic diffusion of innovations theory, but applied to technology markets. Looking at adoption of high-tech innovation, both Rogers’ and Moore’s focus is on adopter categories, where they identify these categories:

  • innovators (technology enthusiasts)
  • early adopters (visionaries)
  • early majority (pragmatists)
  • late majority (conservatives)
  • laggards. (skeptics)

Moore’s proposition is that the most difficult step is making the transition between visionaries (early adopters) and pragmatists (early majority). This is the chasm. Hence. the Technology Adoption Life Cycle looks like this:
Crossing the chasm illustration
Source: Moore (drawing from Wikipedia)

Moore’s idea is that the market/diffusion strategy should focus on one group of customers/users at a time, using each group as a base for marketing and diffusion to the next group. Moore’s key insight is that the groups adopt for different reasons. Early adopters are perhaps project managers looking for a radical shift, where the early majority wants a “productivity improvement”. The latter group wants a whole product, where the former group only needs the core product, and has the technical competence, and financial resources to make the rest themselves. The challenge is to create a bandwagon effect in which the momentum builds and the product/technology becomes a de facto standard.

In his Inside the Tornado book, Moore dives into a corresponding market development model, where he subdivides early adoption into two types: The Bowling Alley and The Tornado.
Source: Moore

Early Market: a time of great excitement when customers are technology enthusiasts and visionaries looking to be first to get on board with the new paradigm.
Chasm: a time of great despair, when the early-market’s interest wanes but the mainstream market is still not comfortable with the immaturity of the solutions available.
Bowling Alley: a period of niche-based adoption in advance of the general marketplace, driven by compelling customer needs and the willingness of vendors to craft niche-specific whole products.
Tornado: a period of mass-market adoption, when the general marketplace switches over to the new infrastructure paradigm.
Main Street: a period of after-market development, when the base infrastructure has been deployed and the goal becomes to flesh out its potential.
Assimilation: the technology loses its discrete identity, moves into decline and is supplanted by a new technology paradigm.

In Living on the Fault Line, Moore looks at the full market development life cycle, and also looks at when technologies dies (reach the fault line). The most recent publication by Moore I’ve found is his Darwin and the Demon: Innovating Within Established Enterprises cover story in Harvard Business Review, Jul/Aug2004.

A good example of this dissusion and adoption dynamics is Linux:

“For web servers, database servers, rendering farms, point-of-sale systems and a variety of other niche categories, Linux has been bowling strikes for several years now. Now we’re moving inside the tornado, big time.” (Searls, 2003)

I have to ask Doc Searls, who comes to town soon, where he sees Linux today. Is it Main Street yet? Or is it a lasting tornado? One thing is for certain, and that is that a lot is happening in the Linux world, just see here, here, here, and here for a few examples.

Moore himself actually examines Linux and other open source initiatives in his Open Source Has Crossed the Chasm … Now What? presentation from the recent Open Source Business Conference 2005.

In his presentation, Moore points out that the greatest advantage of open systems is that they allow organisations to focus on core rather than context. And that resources get tied up in mission-critical context. He talks about five levers for managing mission-critical context (centralize, standardize, modularize, automate and outsource) and how they apply to open source.

Source: Moore (image from SAP)

Another way, though very similar, to “explain” the diffusion and adoption of technologies is Gartner Group’s Hype Cycles, the graphic representations of the “visibility” – maturity, adoption and business application – of specific technologies. For an example, see Gartner’s Linux Hype Cycle (more recent one in here). Gartner talks about the following phases of development:

1. “Technology Trigger” : The breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.

2. “Peak of Inflated Expectations”: A frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. Some successful applications, but typically more failures.

3. “Trough of Disillusionment”: Technologies fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable.

4. “Slope of Enlightenment”: Some businesses experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.

5. “Plateau of Productivity”: The benefits of the technology become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations.

It’s no surprise that Moore was a keynote speaker at a recent Gartner conference. Perhaps their hype cycle model has reached its’ fault line?

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