The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

What kind of technologist are you?

Ed Reynolds (one of the other Fellows who contributes to this blog occasionally) and I were talking today about different types of technologists and technical organizations and the way they solve problems. We were using the metaphor based on land exploitation.

 

First, you have the "explorer". These are the people who come to a new place, plant a flag and then go on to find the next "discovery". Research organizations typically behave this way. They will not develop an idea very far. They are more interested in finding new ideas, and have no patience to make things production-ready. This is equivalent to the innovators in Geoffrey Moore's innovation series of books.

 

After the explorer comes the "pioneer". They move into an area and build some houses and try and tame the wilderness. They are the proof of concept and prototyping technologists. These folks push the edge of what's possible. They'll see an idea and try and make it into something useful. They may be as likely to run away from something, as to run towards a new idea. They don't always like fixing all the details, so they will leave their solution with a few rough edges. These are the early adopters.

 

The "settlers" come along later. They're the people who put in the early shared infrastructure, essentially the start of civilization. They document the work they do. They build fences and create laws. Geoffrey Moore would call these the early majority.

 

Finally, you have the consumers, or "urbanites". The urbanites buy pre-built technologies and just move in. These would be the late majority.

 

I picked up Geoffrey's book Crossing the Chasm, and realized he used the same or similar analogy in his book. I thought I'd seen this metaphor before.

 

Every organization has a few people who play each of these roles. Depending on the technology adoption profile of the organization, the threshold to be an explorer, pioneer... may be quite different. It's all relative. When people move between groups, they may have to reestablish how the technology train can be introduced.

Comments
Anonymous(anon) | ‎04-08-2009 05:34 AM

I'm in the fortunate position of belonging to both the 'pioneer' group in the stuff I do with CD and CDROMs, and to a sixth group, the 'curators' or 'custodians'.

In the day job, I'm part of a steadily reducing number of techies who look after VME mainframe systems. The applications running on these systems can be over 25 years old, still providing business benefit, due to their stability and reliability, and needing staff who are old enough to remember how to look after them properly. These heritage systems are a far cry from the agile systems often touted on this blog, but hold the crown jewels of valuable business data firmly and securely. The statement made by Fujitsu of continuing to develop the VME platform until at least 2020, must give a warm feeling to all those who want some stability in these turbulent times.

It is a sign of how well VME was designed when you can still upgrade the hardware without having to make any application program changes, and I'm really looking forward to using VME on SuperNova, with it's small environmental footprint, and scalability to meet future expansion.

I think all technologists should be made to understand the features of this type of architecture, as great design is rare and can inspire us all.

Anonymous(anon) | ‎04-09-2009 08:31 AM

You make a great point about the role of curator. Even after the standard systems have moved on to newer technology there is still quite a bit of value to be generated by existing systems.

We used to talk about a parallel to the 'hype cycle' we called the 'ripe cycle' about what's needed for maturing systems for the remainder of their lifecycle. During a downturn in the economy, you probably see much more focus on that side of the equation.

Anonymous(anon) | ‎04-11-2009 01:15 PM

Exploneer: Ontology Summit Communique http://is.gd/rOt5 and http://bit.ly/dDA6

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