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Understanding the Focus and Challenges of Technology Lifecycles: Introduction

By Peter Gaarn, Senior Consultant, The Piras Group

First segment in a series about leadership and the technology lifecycle. All segments can be seen on video or read.

Introduction to the Technology Lifecycle

In the early 90’s Geoffrey Moore wrote “Crossing the Chasm,” which put a spotlight on the challenges of managing technology lifecycles as they moved from innovative ideas to consumer businesses.

I saw the patterns Moore outlined play out as I led the HP Organizational Architecture Consulting Group.  Seeing the patterns, we became curious as to what challenges and missteps occur during the phase transitions that impacted those businesses. This curiosity led us to create an action research project to understand the relationship between organizations, businesses, markets, and technology lifecycles. We wanted to understand the real challenges and missteps that occurred during phase transitions that prevented or delayed the transition to the next phase. 

To explain the basis of our research, let’s first discuss the technology product S-curve Geoffery Moore modeled.

The Technology Product S-Curve

The relationship between organizational & technology lifecycles and market adoption moves along an S-curve that begins as a seed or idea, then emerges, grows, becomes established, matures and then move towards the end of life. 

technology product s-curve

Geoffrey Moore builds on this concept and added the market adoption curve for technology products that begins as an early market idea, then at some point, it moves across the chasm and begins to establish itself in the “bowling alley” as a beachhead.  Once a number of beachheads are established, it gathers enough interest and willing customers to hit critical mass. Once the consumer herd begins to move, the product enters the tornado phase of mass adoption, enjoys a great run until it saturates the market and enters Main Street, becoming a commodity.

technology product s-curve with lifecycle

A prime example is the Apple iPhone. When it was first introduced, it shifted what we were used to with traditional cell phones to sophisticated smartphones. Once they crossed the chasm and became established, consumer markets moved quickly, and the iPhone entered a tornado, mass-adoption phase with many competitors entering and saturating the market. iPhones and smartphones are now Main Street commodities. 

However, not all technology products make it to this point and this is the curiosity behind our research.

Our Research

In beginning our research we looked at 10 facets of each product phase. The facets are:

  1. Key Business Challenges
  2. General Business Strategy
  3. Customer Profiles
  4. Key Metrics
  5. Sales and Marketing Strategy
  6. Product and Process Innovation
  7. Competition
  8. Alliances and Partnerships
  9. Leadership
  10. Culture and People

We began by reviewing the key business challenges and the overall general business strategy within a phase. We also asked what the customer profile looked like and discussed key metrics. Digging deeper, we looked at the sales and marketing strategies being used within the phase, and the product and process innovations that were taking place, as well as what competition looked like and what alliances and partnerships were required. We also asked what the role of leadership was and, lastly, we analyzed the culture and the people in the organization.

Using the market adoption curve as the baseline, we took our research a step further by reviewing product examples within each phase, interviewing key leaders in those businesses, and utilizing our own consulting experience to uncover the specific focus, issues or challenges in each phase. What emerged from this additional analysis was a common set of real pain points and classic missteps that would stall programs or products, and deny or delay the move into the next phase.  

The culmination of our research was the identification of common issues within each dimension and common pain points within each phase, and this is the true insight of our research.

What we wound up with for each phase was a single slide that showed the characterization of the 10 dimensions plus the common pain points for that phase and the classic missteps that delayed their entry into the next phase.  Here’s an example of the early market/discontinuity phase:

  1. Misalignment between the market and the research
  2. Mismatch of management style to the innovation required
  3. Uncertainty in the market existence and how to provide value
technology lifecycle missteps

The classic misstep came down to the singular issue that management overlooked the need for strategic partnerships and tried to do everything themselves.

This is an example of what our research uncovered. To go over each issue, pain point and miss step would be time-consuming, so in the next segment of this series we’ll explore the dimensions of business challenges in the technology lifecycle in depth in Part 2, before discussing the business challenges in the technology lifecycle in Part 3 and the pain points and missteps in the technology lifecycle in Part 4.

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