Tuesday, March 14, 2017


This is so true. One of the standing jokes in my industry (IT/Software) is that standards are great because there are so many to choose from! 

Given choice (particularly of software) my experience is that people tend to fall into some kind of weird self-destructive distribution, often choosing the least appropriate and least scalable/flexible/open option. This is a phenomenon that happens alarmingly frequently, it seems to almost be a law of physics! What most people don't realise is that, when it comes to selecting solutions that many people will depend upon, making a sound choice takes both desire and skill.

This is particularly true when it comes to complex things that need to do a certain job well, i.e. critical systems (like the UK economy). In such cases the first thing that needs to be understood is what the job itself entails. I've lost count of the number of clueless administrators, managers and CEO's I've encountered in my career that have been happy to bask in the perceived glory of selecting a new piece of software for their business, only to run a mile when the project fails miserably because it's totally inappropriate for the actual job required and, truth be told, they had no idea what was really needed in the first place.

People make choices based on attributes they understand, when they don't understand the detail of a problem they tend to select based upon superficial things like the personality of the sales person, price or appearance (because they feel they understand those things) - this is almost always a disaster for all concerned.

We've been hearing a lot about "choice" in the news lately, politicians and their apologists around the world are trying to convince people that "choice" is needed. For example, in healthcare in the USA, in trade alliances here in the UK, political choices in Holland and political choices in France. I fear what's being offered is mostly choice of the superficial kind, i.e. not real choice at all but simply an inferior product that will turn out not well suited to the job in hand, in any case most people I know would value reliability, efficacy and value over choice. 

We are surely living in dangerous times, these so called "choices" are being offered to us by snake-oil salespeople with expensive cologne, firm handshakes and shiny suits, whose only chance of success is if they can convince us that what's important is not the quality and fitness of the product, but the choice.

No comments: