Top Technologies That Will Never Make It Big

Making it big means the transformational, viral, highly profitable growth. Think CRM, ERP, tablet, databases, Business Intelligence, Security. Making it big means that companies can reach annual revenues of $1bn+.

Technology is not like any other industry. It goes through ‘paradigm shifts’ which require massive reinvestment in technology platforms by companies. This means that new innovative technology is adopted ‘under the radar’ by evangelists, who are normally business users who see the benefits. Only once it has proven itself does it stand any chance of being purchased by IT departments.

But IT has a vested interest in buying for the existing players – the ‘gorillas’. It is lower risk, it minimizes the different vendors to manage, and it looks good on their CVs. The buying culture of the evangelistic business user and the risk-averse IT buyer is stark, and Geoffrey Moore described it as a chasm in his book Crossing the Chasm. More recently, I co-authored a book Why Killer Products Don’t Sell which explains how you should go to market if you are trapped to the left of the chasm.

So every technology company launches and expects to be to the left of the chasm, but is desperate to have their market mature so that they can sell into the massively profitable areas to the right of the chasm. Geoffrey Moore described the space to the right of the chasm as the tornado.

Yet some technologies seem destined to stay to the left of the chasm. Sad but true. If you are hoping to make on obscene fortune, selling a product in that niche forget it. That doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and make a living. But don’t plan, invest and focus on the day you hit hyper-growth. It may never happen.

Why is the tornado a forlorn hope for these technologies? Firstly, the transition from chasm to tornado is not about the company, but the market. If these technologies haven’t made it after all these years, then they are unlikely to make it now.

They are past their sell-by date; last years’ news. Or maybe the market not big enough or too disjointed to support the growth required. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t great ideas or technology, loved by those who use it, but they are niches. So here is my list:

1. Mind mapping

A great technique which most people have heard of. It is marmite. Some people absolutely love it and absolutely everything turns into a mind map; shopping list, project plan, presentations, strategies for getting the perfect partner., bucket list. But it has never made it as a corporate standard. It can be important, but the purchase of software support is never urgent. Combine this with the limited need for wide scale sharing of the information which is often intensely personal. All this means that free software on desktop, laptops and smart phones often fills the need. Or even, God forbid, pen and paper.

2. Business Process Analysis

an area that has been popular since Michael Hammer’s book Re-engineering the Corporation. In those day is was consultants with yellow stickies. In many ways nothing has changed – consultants advising on business change, have not changed their approach. Ironic? Some clients are getting success from using software to support their process improvement activities to lock in the benefits and demonstrate compliance. But the time it has taken to get here, plus the in-fighting between the different factions or tribes of process improvement (LEAN, Sigma, BPM, change management) seems to have killed any chance of reaching tornado momentum.

3. Knowledge Management

You could argue that everything that companies store on servers and in the cloud is knowledge management. Part of the problem is that this is too broad a term. A subset, Document Management, has made it big with several companies like Documentum becoming significant players. In fact, they are a case study in Geoffrey Moore’s book of a company that has crossed the chasm.

4. Handwriting recognition

I loved Graffiti on my the Apple Newton, Palm and Window Mobile phones (yep – I am an early adopter). But like the over XX million people on the planet I am forced to peck out emails and txts on a little iPhone keyboard. At least I am never left searching for my stylus as I always have an index finger with me.

5. Voice recognition software

Voice recognition seems to be getter better. Some call centres are using it so that you can direct your own calls using voice rather than touch tones. But this is a limited set of responses. Some cars and phones can be controlled by voice. But it seems that the technology has not become accurate enough to be really valuable compared with keyboard entry.

6. Service Oriented Architectures (SOA)

This was the big hope for the development of applications. Construct an enterprise application with reusable building blocks of Services. The promise was that this would be so easy even business users could do it. But no one could agree what a service was torn between practicability and reusability. For an example; was it ‘entering an address’ or ‘entering the postcode’. This approach has now been subsumed into application and BPM vendors offerings rather than a market on its own.

What have I missed?

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Ian Gotts is CEO and Chairman of Nimbus Partners, an established and rapidly growing global software company, headquartered in the UK. He is a very experienced senior executive and serial entrepreneur, with a career spanning 25 years. Ian has co-authored a number of books including “Common Approach, Uncommon Results”, published in English and Chinese and in its second edition, "Why Killer Products Don't Sell" and books covering Cloud computing from the perspective of both the prospective buyer, and the software vendor. Having begun his career in 1983 as an engineer for British Rail, Ian then spent 12 years at Accenture (nee Andersen Consulting) specialising in the project management of major business critical IT projects. During this time, he spent two years as an IT Director, seconded to the Department for Social Security (DSS), with a department of over 500 and a budget responsibility of 40 million pounds.