Over the years, observers in the high-tech field have watched numerous technology adoption lifecycles unfold in surprisingly similar fashion.
The curve illustrates different attitudes toward adoption of
a new and disruptive innovation. The two on the left are predisposed to embrace it, the two on the right to reject it, and the one in the middle is taking a wait-and-see approach. The gap between the visionary and pragmatist is called the chasm.
It separates those who voluntarily embrace innovations from the rest of the mainstream market. “Crossing the chasm” is a critical milestone for any innovation because it signals mainstream support for a persistent presence going forward.
In this context, after many trials and tribulations, CIOs have
learned that there are several reliable strategies for embracing
next-generation technologies. Which one you pick varies, depending
on your industry’s current state and your organization’s
orientation toward risk and reward.
• Go ahead of the herd to gain competitive advantage. This
is a voluntary early-adopter strategy. With this approach, the
risk is in embracing an innovation that will not persist. It typically
involves bold re-engineering of one or more business
1. Figure and following content are adapted from a book by the author of this paper: Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive processes to create a dramatic gap between your enterprise’s capabilities and its direct competitors. Think of what the older online retailers have accomplished with the early adoption of e-commerce or what the largest coffee retailer
in the US gained by introducing free Wi-Fi in its shops before
its competitors. The business model for early adoption is the
project model, where a senior line-of-business executive
in your organization sponsors the effort, and everyone is expected to support it in full.
• Go ahead of the herd to mitigate a mission-critical risk.
This is also an early-adopter strategy, but one entered into
under duress. This strategy typically involves an urgent
re-engineering of a business process that threatens to undermine
the viability of the enterprise. Think of what pagers did
for doctors on call, package tracking for express deliveries, or
RFID for managing containerized cargos in military theaters.
The business model for early adoption is the solution model,
where a lead vendor orchestrates the assembly of the entire
product in coordination with a process-owner sponsor who
leads the reengineering at the customer end. If the solution
catches on and is widely adopted in at least one niche market,
the technology will persist, and the innovation is said to have
crossed the chasm.