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The Choice Overload Problem

Originally Posted at the VCE Vblog - The Choice Overload Problem


My wife recently signed our family up for Netflix, and ever since then I've been perusing the catalog late at night trying to find something interesting that isn't a pre-2000 era movie. There's a few different "Best of 'TED Talks'" so I decided to give it a whirl. The first one I watched was called "Life Hacks". I was immediately dialed in from the different ways people view everyday situations. Heck, one of my favorite ones was Terry Moore: How to tie your shoes and I realized I had been tying my shoes the wrong way my entire life. But there was another one that hit home for me.


Sheena Iyengar (@Sheena_Iyengar) is a Professor at the Columbia Business School, a graduate of Stanford University, and has an extensive list of published works and research studies. A few years ago, she gave a famous TED Talk called How to make choosing easier. It has received 1,000,000+ views on and YouTube. She discusses research findings from case studies done by choices that CEOs and individuals such as you and I make on a daily basis. As well as the choices that are made when we are given a set amount of options. I would encourage you to watch the entire 16min segment (atleast the first 7 minutes), but I'll summarize in the next paragraph.





The average American makes 70 choices a day. The average CEO engages in about 139 tasks in a week, 50% of decisions are made in 9 minutes or less. Only 12% surpass 60 minutes. How well are you managing these choices? This is where we encounter "The Choice Overload Problem". Does offering an overabundant amount of choices make for a good business model? An experiment was conducted at an up-scale grocery store's jam/jelly selection. They had 348 different kinds of jam. A tasting booth was setup at different times, one with 6 different flavors of jam, and another with 24 different flavors. More people stopped and sampled with 24 samples of jam, however, only 3% of the users actually purchased a jar of jam. With the 6 flavor option, less people stopped by, but 30% of those people purchased a jar of jam which yields a 6X increase. Sheena talks about another case study done with financials and how companies like Vanguard and Fidelity offer various amount of portfolios ranging from 20 to 400+ funds. Case in point, the lesser amount of portfolio offerings showed a greater amount people invested. So what's the summary? By offering more choices you experience these negative consequences. 1) The choice is delayed and procrastination takes place where you end up losing much sought after engagement. 2) The consumer will be more likely to make poor choices thereby degrading their decision quality. 3) The consumer is more likely to regret their decision and their overall satisfaction. Less is more.


Sheena makes one statement that correlates to many of us in our industry, “In reality, many choices are between things that are not that much different. The value of choice depends on our ability to perceive differences between the options.”


VCE was founded upon many of the ideas that Sheena discusses. VCE has a limited set of offerings which equates to fewer variations of the products as well as flexibility. Compared to the rest of the industry, it's a misnomer. But remember, this is a good thing. By simply taking the best of the best, VCE reduces the amount of risk which you invest into your business. VCE offers a product set that is engineered to meet 95% of all data center environments with workloads such as VDI, High-performance databases, and generalized workloads with data protection offerings. No other vendor can offer you a limited product set that will meet 95% of all your needs.


When you offer an infinite amount of customization, you ultimately lose what many CxOs are trying to accomplish. Standardization. It's a key attribute when trying to manage thousands of systems across many geographies because it brings simplification. If you're offered varying amounts of products sets from different vendors married with your own integration techniques, it leads to a devaluing experience with a loss in a few key areas:

  1. Purchase decisions are extended based upon the multitude of offerings presented as well as the time to engineer the existing integration.
  2. IT staff is burdened by the time spent learning a new technology instead of focusing on accomplishing the business initiatives.
  3. Soft cost is incurred with IT staff learning curves based on time as well a hard cost with actual education.
  4. The ongoing maintenance effort becomes extra-ordinate by trying to couple a mix of inter-dependencies with best-practices for maximum performance.


Each one of these relates to a hard or soft cost that you will experience and encounter with a reference architecture model instead of a converged solution set. Less is more.


VCE has proven the opposite of these consequences with an IDC study back in April 2012. VCE's limited offering is focused on the workload that you need to run. VCE is flexible enough that we have 3 million+ different configuration options, but accounts for 95% of all standard data center workloads. Purchasing decisions can be made faster because the pre-engineered characteristics removes the need for multiple teams to agree on products and integration sets. A Vblock System is delivered as a fully functional and operable product that is integrated with your existing systems in as little as 1 hour. IT Architecture, QA, Operations, and Support staff can take solace knowing that many products are already a part of your existing data center and VCE Vision consolidates a Vblock System into a holistic view. These teams will be complimented with VCE's Release Certification Matrices to ensure integration (The VCE Certification Matrix - Ensuring Integration) for on-going maintenance. VCE Vision will further extend this capability by offering automatic upgrade procedures to Vblock Systems.


VCE Vblock Systems have made their way into a vast majority of the Fortune 100 companies because the experience is unlike any other. VCE addresses the challenges that many of these businesses face by creating a subset of simple choices that deliver a 45-day turnaround time from order to procurement to operation. As Sheena said, “The key to getting the most from choice is to be choosy about choosing.”



Originally Posted at the VCE Vblog - The Choice Overload Problem

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