What is your technology profile?

When new technology hits the market, are you an "early adopter" or a "skeptic"?

Crossing the chasm, is a theory that maps out why some technology products change the world and others fizzle. It’s the Beta versus VHS scenario. Beta was the better technology but VHS won because it was the one that crossed the chasm.

Geoffrey Moore, in his book Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers, breaks it all down by categorizing our technology profiles (see the graph above), outlining a sociological model for the technology adoption lifecycle. For example, there will always be people who camp out to be first in line for the latest Apple product. They are the innovators. They love technology; they will preorder something they’ve never seen just to try it out. If they like it, they’ll spread the word and get others jazzed.

Close on the heels of the innovators are early adopters. They appreciate the benefits of new technology and are keen to make the most of those advantages by using the newest products. The early majority can relate to new technology but they are governed by practicality and want to see proof that any technology they’re exploring works before they invest. The late majority aren’t as comfortable using new technology and will wait until it becomes the established standard before buying. Laggards are just that — they don’t want to change and will only do so if the status quo is no longer available to them.

Why should you care? Knowing your technology profile will help you make sense of all the technology coming at you each day, including what’s likely to last, so you can make the best decisions on what to buy. For example, Office 365 is introducing new ways to communicate. If you’re an early adopter, this is where you want to be because you’ll have a huge competitive advantage by the time the new system is mainstream.

Two columns ago (see “A peek into our plentiful world,” September) I began talking about our world of abundance and the notion of the long tail — that is, we’re getting more and more products that are more and more focused. What survives and what doesn’t comes down to whether a product can cross the chasm between early adopters and early majority. The path to acceptance begins with innovators talking to early adopters, who talk to the early majority and so on. Personally, I’m more of an early adopter. I wait until a product is at the point where it’s good enough that I feel ready to deploy it. I will bring it into my practice and figure out how my colleagues can use it. Early adopters set the protocols for the beginnings of mainstream adoption.

Many of my clients are in the early majority. Now that CaseWare 2015 is out, they want to know when they can start on it and they look to me to give them the go-ahead on how to use it. Then they’ll start to get excited and push other early majority folks to try it until finally the majority accepts and uses it.

Success and adoption has nothing to do with marketing. It’s society communicating and using social media to share its experience. If it takes hold, one of two things can happen: a tornado effect sweeps in and the technology gains acceptance everywhere, or we end up with a bowling alley effect, meaning the product gains wide acceptance within a specific niche.

When I decided to retire my BlackBerry, I looked to the early majority. I opted for Samsung’s phone on an Android system because the majority had already gone that way, which told me it had crossed the chasm and a tornado effect had taken hold. The question going forward will always be, what’s the next tornado? Now you know where to look for the answer.