Whether it’s technology, pickup trucks or toothpaste, the new product adoption curve remains nearly unchanged. Statistically speaking, about 2.5 percent of buyers, a.k.a. Innovators, will grab the first edition of whatever it is, simply for the novelty. These are followed by Early Adopters (about 13.5 percent). Then there is a gap before the Early Majority (34 percent) buys in. These are followed by the Late Majority (34 percent) and Laggards (16 percent) who bring up the rear.
Graphically, this is known as the Rogers innovation adoption curve, named for Everett Rogers, a communications and sociology professor who first proposed the concept in 1962.
That there are (relatively) small groups of individuals willing, even anxious, to invest in innovation for innovation’s sake should not be surprising. Human history is filled with those who are risk takers as well as those who are risk averse. What should be concerning is that research suggests there is little difference between the factors driving personal purchases versus business purchases. This has major implications when those decisions involve mission-critical systems such as the network.
Before I continue, a moment of full disclosure. At Edgeium I spend much of my time helping clients extend the service life and value of their existing network equipment. But when cutting-edge technology is the best way to meet their needs for higher speeds, greater fiber density, etc., I’ll recommend it. But it is also my job to ensure our clients understand the risks of introducing new equipment into an existing and stable network. These include potential incompatibility and a higher incident of unplanned downtime while the OEM works through the bugs. Often the cutting-edge hardware, which carries a premium price tag, incorporates features for which there is no real widespread need.
Based on the Rogers curve, about 16 percent of network managers fall into the Innovators or Early Adopters categories. Yet according to a recent Edgeium survey, 31 percent of respondents—nearly twice the statistical estimate—indicated that they only purchase next gen equipment. Clearly there is something else going on.
In nearly all cases, the decision to purchase next gen equipment is driven by the OEM’s end-of-sale (EOS), end-of-life (EOL) product cycle. This three- to five-year cycle, it should be noted, does not reflect the equipment’s actual service life, which tends to be between seven to ten years. It is more a reflection of how long before demand for an existing product begins to wane. In other words, next gen rollouts are dictated by the OEM’s profit window, not client needs. As for the clients, by and large they realize this and agree to upgrade anyway or, more often, they simply don’t realize that other options exist.
Whether the client’s decision is to stick with their current hardware or to invest in next generation technology, it must be grounded in facts and serve the best interest of the enterprise. As noted earlier, there are good reasons for upgrading to the latest and greatest; because the OEM says to isn’t one of them.