2017: The Year of Exchanging Technology Hype for Humility and Hard Work

You are here

2017: The Year of Exchanging Technology Hype for Humility and Hard Work

Posted January 17, 2017 in Business Technology & Digital Transformation Strategies, Data Analytics & Digital Technologies Cutter Business Technology Journal

There has scarcely been a day the past few years in which there hasn’t been a breathless press release or article touting some new technological advance and how it will “literally change the world as we know it — forever.” We’ve seen in quick succession big data, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to mention just a few, given the mantle of being the next big societal ­revolutionary change agent.

Big Data Lays an Egg

Take big data, for instance. In October 2012, an influential article in Harvard Business Review proclaimed that being a data scientist was “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.” According to some industry analysts at the time, there was going to be, conservatively, a major US shortage of data scientists ranging from 140,000 to 190,000 by 2018. Furthermore, despite the shortage, Gartner claimed that big data was still going to create 1.9 million new IT jobs — a 50% increase in the then total number of IT workers — as well as generate another 5.7 million new non-IT jobs in the US by 2015. Yet the latter number is significantly greater than the average annual rate of private and government jobs (excluding farm jobs) created in the US over the past 76 years!

The supposedly infallible predictive power of big data analytics was on display in the recent US presidential election, with some big data–driven pollsters calling for a 95% or even higher probability of Hillary Clinton winning the election. As we all know, those predictions were a wee bit off; in fact, the true outcome served to expose the big data emperor as having fewer clothes than pre-election hyped proclamations to the contrary. Big data answers are not fate, after all, despite what many big data advocates have been strongly selling.

There is now a sense that the field has been greatly infected by “big data hubris,” which in turn has called into question how much decision value big data analytics can actually create. One common excuse for the election prediction failure has been the old IT maxim of “garbage in, garbage out,” which requires one to know what garbage looks like, of course. Maybe if the data scientists behind the recent election predictions had bothered to look into those earlier grandiose predictions of big data job creation, some humility might have tempered the arrogance in their forecasts. For instance, a quick check of the actual US computer and mathematical employment in 2015 showed that it stood at 4,369,000 workers, up from 3,814,700 in 2012. Where were all those new IT jobs that analysts claimed were being spawned by big data, let alone the millions of big data–driven non-IT jobs? It doesn’t take a lot of effort to recognize — or smell, for that matter — garbage inputs.

3D Printing Jams

As recently as 2015, 3D printing was the “hottest new thing” that would change the world forever, since soon there would be a 3D printer in every house. In addition, industry observers claimed there was an acute, massive shortage of 3D printing engineers available to be hired. However, the story today already centers on the lost promise of 3D printing as, unsurprisingly, it turns out that it is a lot harder and more expensive than it first appeared. 3D printer companies are in trouble, with some closing their doors for lack of demand. Those left in the business admit that there is still a large gap between the hype being sold and reality, and that they now need to focus on making 3D printing simpler and more useful to customers in order to repair their damaged reputation.

Internet of Scary Things

Another overhyped technology is the Internet of Things, or perhaps better called the Internet of Thieves. Back in 2012, some analysts excitedly claimed that there would be 1 trillion connected devices in the IoT by 2015. However, the latest best estimate is now closer to 30 billion connected IoT devices — by 2020. What’s also becoming alarmingly apparent is that the world of IoT is not very secure, with many of the connected devices readily available to be used in mass denial-of-service attacks, for instance.

Security expert Bruce Schneier warns that “with the advent of the Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems in general, we’ve given the Internet hands and feet: the ability to directly affect the physical world. What used to be attacks against data and information have become attacks against flesh, steel, and concrete.” Industry IoT groups say not to worry, security standards are on their way, but they admit there is no universal agreement among the various IoT standards bodies on what they should be.

Self-Driving Cars, AI Also Overhyped

Totally autonomously driven vehicles and artificial intelligence are likewise becoming, or already are, overhyped technologies. Tesla, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz have been warned about misrepresenting their vehicles’ self-driving capabilities, which could lead their customers into thinking they don’t have to pay attention to their driving while employing them. Similarly, artificial intelligence researchers are worried that the term “AI” has been “hijacked by marketers and advertising copyrighters” who will misrepresent what can and cannot be realistically done by current AI systems and turn people away from usefully applying AI because the technology doesn’t meet inflated expectations.

Today’s Hot New Style: Humility

None of this is to imply that there is no value in big data, 3D printing, IoT, autonomously driven vehicles, or AI, only that there is no value — and potentially a lot of harm — in overhyping their vaporware capabilities. Look again at the world of 3D printing. How much further along would the industry be today if there had been more humility about 3D printing capabilities and warnings of the hard work needed to make those capabilities materialize as promised?

Worse, the oversold capabilities being marketed are likely to be wrong, anyway. The late Roy Amara, a researcher, scientist, and past president of the Institute for the Future, made a sharp observation a number of years ago that has been termed Amara’s Law: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

I predict that after the past year of technological overpromises, in 2017 we will start to see a refocus on acknowledging the hard work required to make a technology successful, as well as a bit more humility about what can be accomplished with it today and in the near future. 

Share This

About The Author

Robert N. Charette is a Fellow with Cutter's Business Technology & Digital Transformation Strategies practice. He is also President of ITABHI Corporation, a business and technology risk management consultancy. With 40 years’ experience in a wide variety of international technology and management positions, Dr. Charette is recognized as an international authority and pioneer regarding IS, IT, and... Read More

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

Philip O'Reilly

Beyond Fintech: New Frontiers — Opening Statement

by Philip OReilly

This issue focuses on key topics of interest for financial services organizations, namely equity crowdfunding, legacy systems migration, robo-advisors, test outsourcing, and refining the reconciliation process.

Bhardwaj Velamakanni

Implementing Design Thinking in Agile

by Bhardwaj Velamakanni

This Advisor presents an overview of improving Agile techniques and practices by using design thinking within the Agile space and describes three techniques from design thinking methodologies that tend to yield benefits to Agile practitioners.

Gustav Toppenberg
Executive Update

Data’s Story: An Enterprise Asset in the Digital Backbone

by Gustav Toppenberg

The existence of a digital backbone in an organization means that anyone aspiring and planning to transform different parts of the enterprise can leverage the digital backbone in a consistent and sustainable way, ensuring that each transformation effort connects and leverages a common platform. Digital transformation leaders are starting to realize that a powerful digital services backbone to facilitate rapid innovation and responsiveness is key to successfully executing on a digital strategy.

Effort score and priority rank for requirements in our sample project.
Executive Summary

Can We Measure Agile Performance with an Evolving Scope? An EVM Framework (Executive Summary)

by Alexandre Rodrigues

Can a method like EVM, developed to control projects with well-defined objectives, be applied to control product development initiatives that evolve continuously toward a “moving target”? In an Agile environment, we are faced with the dynamic evolution of a finite boundary of integrated scope, cost, time, and resources; this finiteness — essential for business management and decisions — is the cradle for project management techniques, tools, methods, and frameworks. The EVM method was first developed to help with managing complex R&D projects mostly characterized by an unstable, volatile, and evolving scope. It is therefore no surprise that EVM applies to Agile projects.


The Frontier of Fintech Innovation — Opening Statement

by Philip OReilly

It’s a pleasure for me to introduce the first of two special issues of Cutter Business Technology Journal (CBTJ) showcasing the thought leadership and cutting-edge research and development (R&D) being done in State Street Corporation’s Advanced Technology Centres in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC), in partnership with University College Cork (UCC) and Zhejiang University (ZJU), respectively. The articles in this issue represent a small sample of the output from the R&D undertaken in these centers, which combine academic excellence with real industry impact.

Executive Update

Business Architecture’s Role in Crisis, Risk, and Compliance Management

by William Ulrich

Every business must deal with crisis, risk, and compliance challenges. Teams chartered with addressing these challenges are often split across business units and regions, which fragments crisis, risk, and compliance management efforts. Business unit silos and related complexities obscure ecosystem transparency, which in turn constrain an organization’s ability to identify risks, assure compliance, and prevent and disarm crises. Business architecture delivers business ecosystem transparency as a basis for improving a business’s ability to collectively address challenges related to crisis, risk, and compliance. 

Curt Hall

Building New Business Models with Blockchain

by Curt Hall

Organizations are using blockchain to create new business models — exploiting its capabilities for optimizing contract management, financial transaction management, and identity management.

Nine Policy Recommendations for Managing Technical Debt
Executive Update

Managing Technical Debt: Nine Policy Recommendations

by Rick Brenner

For technology-dependent products, companies, institutions, and even societies, sustainability depends on learning how to manage technical debt. Like most transformations, incorporating new practices into our organizations will likely be an iterative process. We already recognize the problem, and researchers are making progress, albeit mostly on technical issues. This Executive Update proposes a policy-centered approach to the problem. It begins with a principle that can serve as a guide for constructing technical debt management policy, and then shows how to apply that principle to develop nine recommendations that enable organizations to manage technical debt effectively.

Bhardwaj Velamakanni

Emerging Agile Anti-Patterns

by Bhardwaj Velamakanni

Agile methodologies, however popular they are, bring their own sets of “smells” and anti-patterns to the table, sometimes causing irreparable damage to the team. While the sources of these smells are many, one of the primary culprits is the mindset that treats Agile as “yet another methodology,” totally ignoring the cultural aspect. This article throws light on some of the prominent smells that are emerging of late in the Agile world.

Jens Coldewey

Middle Management in Flux

by Jens Coldewey

If you start changing an organization toward an Agile mindset, there’s no real end. Agile is about creating an organization of continuous learning and the transformation is done when there is nothing new to learn, which will probably be never. This puts an enormous challenge on middle management.


Business Opportunities in the New Digital Age — Opening Statement

by San Murugesan

The articles in this issue present perspectives and ideas on business transformation in the digital age. We hope they will inspire and encourage you to visualize the likely future of business in your domain and to explore the opportunities it presents. Finally, we hope their insights will help you identify suitable transformation strategies and plans and, if needed, choose viable collaboration models for partnering with startups and other firms in your digital business efforts.


Unlocking Value from Digital Initiatives

by Joe Peppard, by John Thorp

Beyond buzzwords, what we are seeing is a seismic shift in the role of technology in organizations. Technology is more and more embedded in everything we do as we move into an increasingly hyper-connected digital world, a world in which technology is driving significant social, organizational, and industry change.

Digital Data Steams impact bottom line

Improve Customer Experience — Leverage Your Digital Data Streams

by Federico Pigni, by Gabriele Piccoli

In this on-demand webinar, you'll discover the strategic and tactical opportunities made possible by Digital Data Streams and the opportunities for improved customer experience made possible by DDS.

Lou Mazzucchelli

Why Are They Twittering? A Modest Proposal

by Lou Mazzucchelli

At the Cutter Digital Transformation & Innovation Bootcamp, Cutter Fellow and Harvard Business School Professor Karim Lakhani talked about digitally-driven disruption of traditional business models for value creation and capture, discussing platform models like Facebook and Twitter. To date, Twitter has clearly done a good job “creating value.” But unlike Facebook, it continues to struggle with the capture part of the equation.

social collaboration
Executive Update

Seven Ways to Gamify Social Collaboration

by Phaedra Boinodiris

Social collaboration is not about technology. It’s about connecting people, and it’s changing the way business is being conducted. Similarly, gamification is not about games. It’s about motivating the per­sonal and professional behaviors that drive business value. Together, social collaboration and gamifi­cation help companies reap great benefits — among them, the ability to deepen customer relationships, drive operational efficiencies, and optimize their workforce. 

Figure 1 — Tracing a roadmap to projects.

Using Roadmaps Strategically

by Roger Evernden

Roadmaps have two key functions in strategy planning. The first is to outline planned architectural changes that will deliver the required strategies; the second is to outline alternative ways to achieve the same results.


Technology Trends, Predictions, and Reflections 2017: Opening Statement

by Cutter Team

Just as recent global events have given us reason to pause and reflect, the pace of technology emergence and disruption is proving to be a source of inspiration and uncertainty. Transitioning to a digital world is front-of-mind for many business executives, yet finding the right path is an ongoing challenge. So we asked Cutter’s team of experts for their insights on some of the technologies, trends, and strategies that will be relevant in 2017 and beyond. In typical Cutter Business Technology Journal fashion, our call produced a wide range of opinions and reflections worthy of consideration as you chart your business technology journey for the new year.


AGI: A Threat, an Opportunity, or an Inevitable Unknown for 2017?

by Alexandre Rodrigues

Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is currently emerging as an area where recent developments are likely to have a major impact on the way organizations do business, societies organize themselves, and even on how we address values and ethics.

The fact is that AGI already exists in our daily life. A common example is the GPS systems present in many new cars manufactured today; and let’s not forget the drones being used to deliver pizzas and cars that drive themselves. While automatic pilots have been used in commercial planes for quite some time, what AGI is about to offer to general business and human activity is well beyond what most of us have seen so far.


The Tech-Driven Tech Backlash

by Carl Pritchard

2017 is going to be a year of strange winners, and perhaps the strangest of all will be a giant leap away from technology and back to solutions that don’t rely on 24/7 connectivity. With the onslaught of major hacks and Facebook embarrassment, the antitech crowd may have its best year in decades. 


Rapid Technology Innovation in Blockchain: Should You Be on the Front Lines?

by Nate OFarrell

One of the most prevalent blockchains in the world, Ethereum, is poised to switch from a proof-of-work (POW) algorithm to a proof-of-stake (POS) algorithm, likely in 2017, with the release of the Casper codebase. Why does this matter? Because blockchain technology is becoming increasingly relevant and prevalent in businesses across the globe. It holds great potential to disrupt how businesses perform basic transactions, from payments, to programmable, self-executing contracts, to identity verification.