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Mission Support

The “Technology Adoption Cycle”.

by rboggio on ‎06-10-2014 05:17 AM (3,426 Views)

I recently read the book “Inside the Tornado by: Geoffrey A. Moore”. The theme of the book is to recognize and leverage the stages of hyper growth markets. The author hones in on the “technology adoption cycle”. Reflecting on the book, I could not help but see the correlations of principle between the theme the author eloquently describes and the IT support and services business.


There are many facets to managing a support and services team, as well as a business. One of the many facets is, understanding technical direction for the short term and long term future.


  • Where is the business I support/lead going?
  • Where is the market going?
  • Where is technology headed?

Not so long ago business drove technology. Over the years many a great leader in business or IT deliverable teams has missed technology innovation waves.


  • In 1980, McKinsey & Company was commissioned by AT&T (whose Bell Labs had invented cellular telephony) to forecast cell phone penetration in the U.S. by 2000. The consultant’s prediction, 900,000 subscribers, was less than 1% of the actual figure, 109 Million. Based on this legendary mistake, the AT&T leadership made one of those statements that will live forever, “Cellular telephony is just a niche market”. In the end missing that technology wave cost AT&T $12.6 billion to re-enter the cellular market.

Using the AT&T example we can now see how technology drives business. Unfortunately one of the common pitfalls of service and support development is technology change. Just like AT&T, we can miss the technology adoption and business potential, and in the end pay a hefty price to get back in the game.


Technology change can be like a double edged sword. On one side, environments that change much slower than technology and the market tend to become what the book describes as the “Laggards”.


  • The Laggards (comprising about 16%) is the last group to try or adopt a new product, use friends and neighbors as information sources, dislike change, and accept new things only when forced to.

On the other side of that risk are the “Innovators”, supporting environments that adopt change much quicker. “Innovators” are willing to take risks to capitalize on opportunities to drive innovation into their support environments and business’s success. They may adopt too early, but the technology does not mature into the mainstream market as promised.


  • Although least numerous (comprising about 2%), the innovator group is the first to try new ideas, processes, goods and services. The members of this group are urbane, have money (to take risks), are attracted to change and new experiences, and use multiple information sources for making a purchase decision.


Why is this relationship important to understand? Roughly for the last 15 years IT change has been consistent with regard to the network. Devices have changed, and have become more efficient. Protocols have stabilized becoming more universal. Transport mechanisms have matured into very robust aspects of the network. (cat3 vs cat6e) Networks are solid, TCP/IP, IPv4, OSPF, networks. We have learned and adapted to the strengths and limitations of these networks, maximizing their potential. Given there long term maturity they are easy to understand, manage and develop for. This stability invokes a type of sedentary viewpoint when it comes to training and development concerning technology.


Over the last several years there have been some innovative network technologies evolving. Ethernet Fabric, Trill, IPv6, SDN, virtual routing, virtual loading balancing and cloud just to name a few. Evolution continues in how we connect to and use our networks: The mobile device, the GPS device DaaS, SaaS, and the amount of data streaming from the devices. This does not include the video on demand and video and music streaming services. The new frontier is “BigData” and how we transmit that data.


In the book the author points out an area in the adoption cycle the service and support world must be aware of to survive the coming tornado. The Bowling Alley:


The 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.

Over the past several years we have seen terms like Ethernet Fabric and Cloud move from marketing terms to real world technologies. Using the analogy above we are in the Bowling Alley and headed for mainstream market adoption. This is the phase the book calls the tornado.

The Tornado:

  • A period of mass-market adoption, when the general marketplace switches over to the new infrastructure paradigm.

The danger for the technology Services and Support business is missing the technology paradigm shift and getting caught in the tornado unaware. When you’re the Field Engineer being behind the technology 8 ball is paralyzing. For a manager, the complexity of trying to get your people trained is an all-consuming task. This negatively impacts the customer experience from the support perspective. As we learned from AT&T, missing the technology paradigm shift induces a healthy penalty to pay to get back in the game.


The imminent departure of old technology and our traditional way of doing networks begs the question “What is your source of new information for your Services and Support business”? Bigger better faster technologies are fundamentally different. How are you preparing your Services and Support for the coming tornado with respect to technology adoption?