The Lifecycle of Technology Trends
Trends are very important to follow, especially in the technology world, for both product and service companies. Trends give you a competitive edge and a user base that is highly vocal. However, it is not always possible to be a trendsetter, and it's probably not always necessary either. lt is similar to picking which battles you want to win and invest resources in, because trends are not easy to create at all times. For example, Apple is a trendsetter in the mobile space but not in the world of cloud. So, what really constitutes the technology trend lifecycle, and what does it mean for testers?
As seen in the diagram below, a trend typically has as “trigger” that starts garnering mainstream visibility. The trigger need not always be a problem statement—shunning the popular adage that necessity is the mother of innovation. It could relate to a value add, a competitive positioning or edge, a superior experience for users, or a paradigm shift altogether. Following this is a “peak of expectation” with analysts, researchers, and followers working on the same and making progress. In certain cases, this phase may be followed by a stage of disillusionment where there may be a break in adoption and lost hope in the trend.
A trend with promise will pick right back up and get into the lifecycle again. For example, the world of virtual reality is in this stage right now, where analysts and venture capitalists are in a trough with low expectations for the trend. On the other hand, artificial intelligence and machine learning are in peak expectation phase. Post disillusionment, the ones that pick up enter a phase of enlightenment and ultimately reach a productivity phase with wider adoption, at which point it is no longer a trend but an acknowledged and embraced technology. Google Glass is one that picked up after its trough, although not as much as the hype anticipated it to be.
Aligning with phases are adopters in the lifecycle where organizations are innovators, early adopters (more like a beta crowd), early majority, late majority, laggards, or those playing catch up. And if you look closely, the trend lifecycle also aligns with the innovation lifecycle, which enables organizations to bring in resilience, creativity, agility, and versatility in their path to becoming a visionary. Having these two lifecycles tightly coupled is a good goal for an organization’s research and development charter.
Specifically for testers, we often times only look at how to test applications in a new technology space. An important piece that we miss is how we leverage the trend in enhancing the productivity of the test effort. For example, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are great technology enablers to help bring in more scenarios to test and to connect better with end users. Tying in all these pieces makes trend watching not just a checklist item to adhere to but rather a truly productive exercise.