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January 29, 2015
Microsoft Hololens and the evolution of computing

January 15, 2015
Commentary: Tech device diversity set to explode with IoT

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USAToday Column


February 11, 2015
High tech and the laggard effect

By Bob O'Donnell

FOSTER CITY, Calif. -- One of the biggest challenges the tech industry is facing has nothing to do with technology, security, privacy, economics or any of the other commonly discussed big picture factors.

Instead it's one of perception, or should I say, "misperception."

Specifically, I'm referring to the common misperception, or misconception, of the speed with which new technologies are deployed within businesses. The truth is, many of the buzzword technologies and developments that dominate tech and even general press headlines often aren't deployed until several years after they've fallen off the front pages.

Call it the "laggard effect," the end of the bell curve or the IT hype cycle. But the vast majority of companies simply do not jump on major new tech trends until they have been thoroughly vetted, utterly refined and, in some cases, reduced to being somewhat boring. IT departments are notoriously conservative and actually move very slowly when it comes to rolling out what often seem like very obvious improvements.

There have been examples of this IT technological conservatism for decades: from waiting to deploy new Windows operating systems on PCs until at least a Service Pack or two had been shipped, to the ever-delayed deployment of virtual desktops, and so on and so on. Think lots of companies are building robust big data projects leveraging Hadoop (an open-source distributed database framework) and posting their results in the cloud for their employees to access?

Ha…think again. (Oh sure, some of them are thinking about it, and a few have actually built small prototypes, but widespread deployment? Not even close….) In fact, several years ago, Microsoft built a model for categorizing the overall sophistication level of IT organizations and the company found that only a small, single-digit percentage of these groups were really leveraging the most advanced capabilities available to them.

The latest tech development to fall into the IT hype cycle is mobile applications, especially custom-built ones designed to be used on employees' own devices. Surely, you might think, lots of big name companies around the world have built smartphone apps that allow people to do things as simple as, say, looking up what a given customer bought the last time they made a purchase, so that an informed salesperson can go into a meeting well-armed to maximize their next sale, right? Well…

Given all the attention that the mobile "revolution" has received from the press, investment community, analyst firms and other industry observers, it's easy to presume that apps like these are in widespread use. But the fact is, mobile app development and deployment in business are barely getting started. Apple CEO Tim Cook even admitted as much this week during his comments at the Goldman Sachs investment conference. Many very large, well-known companies literally don't have a single custom mobile app in progress, let alone in company-wide use.

The reasons for the dichotomy in understanding are many, but one of the most important is that many of these advanced developments aren't really that well understood — yes, even by IT departments — and a lot of them are just plain hard to do.

Companies don't always have the internal resources to do this kind of work and are understandably reluctant to work with outsiders on projects that could expose key corporate data assets. Plus, the amount of security issues that have arisen recently — particularly something as devastating as the attacks on Sony Pictures — makes IT decision makers more than a little cautious to deploy technologies that haven't been battle tested.

Finally, because of the nature of the technology business and all the amazing promises that get made by vendors (and often retold by others), there seems to be a greater willingness to accept the beneficial claims that the latest technology developments seem to offer.

And that, really, gets to the heart of the problem. Perception is a powerful thing — a lot more powerful than many are willing to admit — and the perception that everyone else must be doing something can have a big impact on how the world is perceived and how decisions are made.

When it comes to major IT trends and developments, however, a little reality check would do the industry good.

Bob O'Donnell is founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a technology and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

Here's a link to the original column: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/02/11/laggard-effect-speed-with-which-new-technologies-are-deployed-within-businesses/23253579/

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