I haven’t read Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, although I am planning to, but I did see it mentioned many times through different blog and articles and blogs. So for the uninitiated, Moore developed a model for disruptive technologies lifecycle which applies to almost any product with an additional caveat. A graph of the lifecycle looks similar to this:
In short, Moore hypothesized that any technology since its inception until it is decommissioned would follow a specific pattern where a community will start using the technology for niche use cases until it becomes mainstream. However, as Moore observed, there is a critical point in time when a technology expectation becomes so inflated that there is a chance the technology shortcoming become aperient and early adopters might abandon it in drove for other alternatives. That time in the lifecycle is the most crucial and impactful period that can kill the technology or fly it away to becoming mainstream. If you look at any failure in any field technology that got much hype, hello Segway, you will remember all the promises of clean transportation for the inner cities which failed to deliver on the promises that people built on it.
So where is risky from the customer side about the chasm from a business perspective? Well, the chasm represents the uncertainty of the technology, what exactly does it do? Blockchain until a couple of months back was in this stage where we know the technology we know it will go somewhere, but we don’t know how it will fit with our value proposition. Let alone most businesses synonym the technology with Bitcoin, which is nothing but utilization of the concept, for them, Blockchain is something that does something, but we don’t understand it. Now the risky part comes not from the lack of experience but from the business consultancy groups that prey on the clients’ ignorance about it. Consultancy groups are notorious for capitalizing on the chasm and will advocate for it to get those sweet contracts. Cause if you are not an early adopter then surely your competitors will gain market benefit once they adopt the technology. It doesn’t matter if we cross the chasm or not, as long as the consultancy subjected its narrative and expertise on the chasm to gain more engagements. If you could go back 15 years back, you would remember that one chasm was web portals were overpromised and how it would ease the development and delivery of competing advantages; much of my effort at that time was spend on technologies and understanding them then throwing all the business logic in a propriety technology that was very complex and chaotic. So look where the web portals went from there? Yes there are still portal products (now called Digital Experience Platform, ya lets throw another makeup layer to it) but the whole development process has significantly shifted from portlet development, I will never forget jsr186, into having a platform that consumes APIs and renders them. So in effect, even WordPress could be considered a Digital Experience Platform!
So what exactly should someone, or a business, do when facing the chasm? Initially, I would say it is to understand what the chasm is. The chasm is nothing more than the period that the technology proves itself for successful cases. Every technology or product has passed this phase to become a mainstream and then a utility and commodity (look at Linux). The second is, always treat this caution, don’t put much investment in it, experiment, experiment, experiment, and develop your use case and internal capability if the technology is proven through experimentation. Also, if you were a business that doesn’t have the human capabilities, then tread lightly with consultancy groups, and try to start small with failure in mind.