Gartner Hype Cycle: Some Pointed Criticism from Analytics India

September 5, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read the Analytics India article “Gartner’s Hype Cycle is a Waste of Time.” The “hype cycle” is a graph designed to sell consulting services. My personal perception is that Gideon or a close compatriot talked about the Boston Consulting Group’s version of General Eisenhower’s two by two matrix. Here’s an example of


I want to credit Chris Adams article about the Eisenhower Matrix. You can find Mr. Adams’ write up at this link. I don’t know what General Eisenhower’s inspiration was, but the BCG adaptation was consulting marketing genius. Here’s an example of the BCG variant:


This illustration comes from Business to You at this link.

Before looking at a Gartner graph goodie, I want to point out that the BCG innovation was to make the icons relate to numbers. BCG pointed to the “dogs” icon and then showed the numbers like market share, product costs, etc. that converted an executive in love with the status quo to consider rehoming the dogs or just put a beloved pet down. In the lingo of one blue chip outfit, the dog could find its future elsewhere.

I did a Bing image search for Gartner hype cycle and found a cornucopia of outputs. Here’s one I selected because it looked better than some of the others:


If you want to view a readable version, navigate to this Medium post by Compassionate Technologies of which I have zero knowledge. (But do the words “technology” and “compassion” go together?)

The key point about the Gartner graph is that they all look alike; that is, the curves don’t change, which is the point I guess. A technology begins at point 0,0 and moves up a hockey stick curve (maybe the increasing hype) and then appear to flatten out. I am confident that the Gartner experts are not gathering technology market and investment data and thinking in terms of linear regression, standard deviation, or a calculator on a mobile phone.

9 5 make stuff up

The client says, “Your team’s report strikes me as filled with unsupported assertions. My company cannot accept the analysis. We won’t pay the fee for this type of work.” Oh, oh. Thanks, MidJourney, close to my prompt but close only counts in horse shoes.

The difference between the BCG graph is that numbers are used to explain the “dogs,” “stars,” etc. The Gartner graph is a marketing vehicle. Those have read my essays over the years know that I view the world with some baked in biases; for example, the BCG graph is great marketing which leads to substantive consulting. This is one characteristic of a blue chip consulting firm. The Gartner graph is subjective or impressionistic, a bit like a Van Gogh night sky. Sure, there are stars, but those puppies don’t look like swirlies to me. Thus, Gartner is to me a mid tier consulting firm. Some consumers of these types of marketing graphs use them to justify certain actions; for instance, selecting a particular type of software. When the software goes off the rails, the data-starved impressionistic chart leaves some hungry for more data. When another project comes along, the firm may seek a blue-chip outfit even if its work is more expensive.

Now back to the Analytics India article cited above.

The author makes a statement with which I agree:

The Gartner Hype Cycle is not science, but Gartner presents it as an established law.

Exactly. This is marketing, not the BCG analytics centric Eisenhower 2×2 matrix.

Here’s another passage from the write up (originally from Michael Mullany):

Many technologies simply fade away with time or die. According to Michael Mullany, an additional 20% of all technologies that were tracked for multiple years on the Hype Cycle became obsolete before reaching any kind of mainstream success. The Gartner Hype Cycle is not science, but Gartner presents it as an established natural law. Expressing similar sentiments, a user on Hacker News wrote, “Why do people think the Gartner Hype Cycle is a law of Physics?” when in fact, the Hype Cycle lacks empirical backing and fails to consider technologies that deviate from its prescribed path.

Yep, marketing.

Do I care? Not any more. When I was doing consulting to buy cheap fuel for my Pinto (the kind that would explode if struck from behind), I did care. The blue chip outfit at which I worked was numbers oriented. That was a good thing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2023


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