Does the Hype Machine Help or Hurt Business Buyers?

Updated: January 08, 2010

OK, so does the hype machine help business buyers? I'm speaking about your average small business or IT professional. A lot of folks would have us believe the hype helps businesses become aware of the need to buy a new technology or participate in a trend. In other words hype machines makes business professionals aware of trends and get them valuable information. Hello, business owner. Wake up. You need to purchase a new VoIP phone system. You need to get on Twitter and start marketing your business.

Of course, there is problem that most of these hyped technologies don't deliver results or just aren't ready for mass adoption - hence Gartner's Hype Cycles or the classic "Crossing the Chasm" concepts first proposed by Geoffrey Moore - the eloquent view of the snowball.

All of these philosophical discussions and frameworks are great but here's the thing with hype. Especially in today's world of fragmented media, hype makes it even more difficult for your average business professional to figure out what's going on and to find a credible source of information. Don't forget 99.9 percent of business aren't cozy with your Gartner analyst. While I know that fellow researchers, analysts, consultants and vendors can make it through the quagmire and perhaps even relish the intellectual challenge of bringing order to chaos, I don't think the purchasers of these technologies have the same experience. They actually have a day job that is only partly related to their purchase - whether it be a phone system, a CRM system or virtualization software. They have to make quick decision especially outside the world of the large enterprise.

My concern is that many small business and IT professionals think technologies are overrated because of the hype noise associated with those technologies create so much confusion. We recently asked Focus Users in our Focus polls: Which technologies are most overrated? As of this blog post 83 users responded. I was surprised by how close the results were:

  • 11% selected virtualization
  • 18% selected unified communications
  • 18% selected green IT
  • 22% selected cloud computing
  • 27% selected social networking

Well, I know lots of really solid product and use cases across all of these technologies. And maybe the poll is faulty because we didn't include "none of the above." But my belief is that this hype is having collateral damage. "Overrated" means "I'm not buying that right now." Confusion over social networking gets quickly associated with CRM. Confusion over cloud computing slows down making the decision over which hosting solution to use. Confusion over unified communications slows down the purchase of phone systems. And so on. Do vendors see this same problem? I'd be interested in knowing.

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