IT fads. The list is seemingly endless. Business supercomputers, RFID, the UK's NHS civilian IT project, and floating data centers, to name just a few famous flops.
The difference between a fad and a trend is staying power, states Scott Buchholz, emerging technology research managing director, and government and public services chief technology officer, with Deloitte Consulting. “Fads tend to come and go very quickly, whereas trends tend to last for years or decades, evolving and changing as they go.”
Fads often fall into the “too good to be true” category, Buchholz notes. “They're the silver bullets, the trivial solutions to wicked problems, and the empty promises of full buzzword compliance.”
Falling for a fad could ultimately hinder an organization's innovation team. “Depending on your budget and scope, you may only have a chance to take a couple of ‘big swings’ each year,” says Mike Storiale, vice president, innovation development, at consumer financial services firm Synchrony. Time wasted on a fad can delay, or perhaps even halt, work on a truly useful initiative.
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Key Trends Indicators
Trends generally present a clear business value. Unlike fads, trends are typically logical evolutions rooted in previously successful innovations. “For example, recommendation engines evolved from rules-based models to statistics to machine learning,” Buchholz explains. “Microservices evolved out of a long history of web services, service-oriented architecture, remote object calls, and more.”
A genuine trend can also unlock new possibilities. “Autonomous driving could make it possible for people to live, work, and vacation farther away,” Storiale says. Self-driving vehicles could also permanently shift shopping trends and disrupt the ways vehicles are acquired, insured, and serviced.
IT industry consultants rely on networks of hundreds or even thousands of experts to guide their technology research and reach decisions. “For those without that support infrastructure, getting advice from a trusted, independent expert can be very helpful,” Buchholz says.
Follow the money, advises Joel Martin, executive research leader at business consulting and research firm HFS Research. “If there's a way to monetize the offering, investors will invest in the due diligence to make it happen,” he says. While strong financial backing doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, it likely will attract followers looking to mimic or copy the innovation, strengthening its potential for long-term success.
Business outcomes are generally fed from three directions: by increased revenue, decreased costs, or new revenue streams, says Prashant Kelker, partner and Americas lead, digital sourcing, and solutions, with global technology research and advisory firm ISG. “The more we can combine business outcomes with new developments, the more we will be able to justify the ‘why’, and separate trends from fads.”
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