Technology Consumerization: When Innovation Moves Beyond The Hype Cycle

Fred Isbell

No matter the technology, innovations follow a hype cycle of ever-escalating (and sometimes inflated) expectations, leveling off as adoption increases, with a screaming descent when measurable value is realized as they mature. From then on, life returns to normal – and reality sets in before a new technology emerges and the hype cycle begins again.

And while this wild ride can be thrilling, technology also typically transitions from the consumer to the business and IT landscape afterward. This is the stage commonly called the “consumerization of IT.”


This technology lifecycle is hardly anything new. Personally,  I remember when IT organizations were pressured to take the ease of Mac and Windows computers and apply it to business solutions. In fact, my first introduction to SAP solutions, nearly 25 years ago, followed that same premise – adding a presentation layer to the front-end SAP R/3 application and taking advantage of the ease of use of the latest graphical user interface and PC-based applications at that time.

However, innovations, such as e-commerce applications and the shopping-cart paradigm for online purchases, are bringing the user experience to mainstream IT solutions. Meanwhile, these same IT solutions are returning the favor by enhancing the customer experience.  The “consumerization of IT” is matched by the “IT-ization” of the consumer experience, and new synergies and developments go both ways.

From hype to consumerization

We are living in an era where technologies on our mobile phones and tablets are making their way into our homes. I recently discussed how a Bluetooth-enabled showerhead, which I found at my local home improvement store, demonstrated the new potential of the “Internet of Everything” as we moved beyond just connecting the “Internet of Things.” When I returned to the same store three weeks later, I saw two more products/solutions that will extend the “Internet of Everything” even further:

  1. Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo not only aggregates your music and entertainment options, but it can also control lights, switches, and thermostats through voice commands. Although they may seem commonplace to millennials and Gen Z, these capabilities resided only in our imaginations not too long ago. Even movies a short time back parodied the use of futuristic voice activation, including the famously humorous scene in the movie “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”

Fast-forward to today, we’ve gone beyond the hype cycle as voice activation becomes a part of our lives. We can now access information in the genuine style of an “information appliance.” That’s something we spoke about in the early era of the Internet, and it’s real now; not just a future. Consumer appliances are today simplifying access to various aspects of everyday home life. Plus, entertainment options – such as Amazon, Spotify, and Pandora – are enabling true consumerization of the cloud. Not surprisingly, Amazon is active in both consumer and business applications of the cloud, from private to hybrid to public clouds.

  1. 3D printing

As 3D printing continues to rise in popularity, many people are already aware of how this technology can be used. Download your design, print and produce art, and do it with a run of one or more. In fact, it’s so simple that even middle-school students are 3D printing their projects with incredible ease. I found a 3D printer in an artesian community in Sedona, Arizona, this summer, further showcasing its continued adoption.

Dremel 3D Printer

Then there’s the Dremel 3D home printer, a brand known to hobbyists for drills and shaping tools. I was a bit taken back when I saw it in the middle of the retail floor. Very soon, this appliance may follow the adoption path of the PC, where its presence in our homes becomes the rule rather than the exception. Eventually, it may even become part of the home and consumer information utility experience and infrastructure. At a price point of $1,000 USD it’s going to be easy to adopt – guess I’ll put that on my Christmas/birthday list.

Before we get excited…

We must remember that voice activation and 3D printing are still subject to the rules of technology adoption. They are still in the innovator and early-adopter phase of the technology adoption cycle, but their retail presence showcases the rapid movement to the early majority. Prices will come down, and availability of these products will escalate as a result of radically higher product volumes. I wouldn’t hold my breath for my late-majority friends to jump on this bandwagon quite yet; but once a compelling economic argument is made, they too will join the party.

Just as Uber has altered and fundamentally transformed the taxi business, these innovations will, no doubt, accelerate industry transformation when applied to innovative business models. And the traditional paradigms of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) models will merge, morph, and render themselves to no longer be distinct and separate areas. Rather, we may see B2B2C as the engine powering a continuous chain of value-enabled innovation.

Virtual reality is next up on the hype cycle. See how VR will force your business to change in From E-Business to V-Business.

About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.