We make thousands of decisions every day—consciously or unconsciously. And, decision-making has become more and more complex given the abundance of choices we are offered. Tom Hanks character sums it up nicely in this You’ve Got Mail clip about selecting a morning caffeinated beverage.
The abundance of choice is good … until there’s too much of it. With too many options, decisions require more effort, mistakes are likely, and the impact of a poor decision can be more profound. If you’ve invested time and adequate reflection in a selection, you want to be happy with your decision. Ever hear of the phrase “buyer’s remorse?”
The types of decisions we make vary. Some are big decisions and some are small. Some are weighed heavily while others are more instinctive. I came across Jordan Dansky’s Huffington Post blog with a perspective on “choosing” and “picking.” In sum, choosing implies that there is a reason for a selection, while picking implies indifference with alternatives.
According to Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, “A chooser is someone who thinks actively about all possibilities before making a decision. A chooser reflects on what’s important to him or her in life, what’s important about this particular decision, and what the short- and long-range consequences of the decision may be. A chooser makes decisions in a way that reflects awareness of what a given choice means about him or her as a person.”
Schwartz also notes “a picker does none of these things. With a world of choices rushing by like a music video, all a picker can do is grab this or that and hope for the best.”
The framework of pickers vs. choosers works well in IT as well. For virtualized workloads, one of the dilemma’s facing IT organizations today is the selection of on-premises IT infrastructure: Should you stay the course with a traditional three-tier architecture, opt for a converged platform, or adopt hyperconverged infrastructure? If decisions are being directed by external sources, instead of by IT’s own goals and needs, will the final selection deliver a better or worse outcome? For example, the rush for IT organizations to be responsive to their business constituents’ needs of faster, better, and cheaper IT services may diminish the IT organization’s requirements for reliability, resiliency, and security—and maybe even its sense of control.
So how can we be choosers? Some practical considerations:
- Engage your stakeholders. Make inquiries with anyone that will be affected by the organization’s actions, objectives, and policies, and examine the impact of any decision before you make it.
- Determine your goals and objectives. As Dansky’s blog points out, “The first step to making better decisions is to know why you’re making them.” Are your goals related to service level objectives (time to production, uptime, RTO/RPO, etc.), revenue goals, or savings of some type, whether budget, time, or footprint, or something else? Which factor(s) make the decision most obvious?
- Set relevant (and a practical number of) decision-making criteria. Based on your goals and objectives, what are the most important factors to use in decision-making? If there are “shades of gray” that are so insignificant that there would be little relative gain given the amount of time/effort to evaluate, then eliminate the criterion. Time can and should be spent on the decisions that will have the greatest long-term significance. So, whatever infrastructure choices you do select to examine, do so thoroughly. Go beyond a simple checkbox to understand all aspects of the criteria.
- Are the criteria weighed equally or are some more important than others? Weighting allows you to take several different factors into account while taking an objective approach to what’s of most importance.
- Set a practical number of alternatives to review and gather the data you will need. Your instinct might be to limit yourself to selections where you have had success in the past; however, make sure that your desire for simplicity and “sticking with what you know” doesn’t sacrifice thoroughness. For example, in your practical number of alternatives to review, set a goal of reviewing additional “strong contenders” that might not typically make your short list.
- Be wary of biases. Seek data to verify the merits or your options against the criteria. For example, you may fail to consider all of the possible solutions due to time constraints, you may only seek data that supports your beliefs or expectations, or you only rely on information that is the most readily available.
- Set a date. Define your “by when” for decision-making. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis!
- Make your selection and manifest the decision. An effective communication plan about the choice is as important as the decision itself.
In my scenario of an on-premises infrastructure approach, once you make a decision one way or another, you may have to execute a similar process to assess the options within the category selected (i.e., which vendor/solution to choose).
At each juncture, you have to decide to be “choosey” or pick what is just good enough. Just good enough is the easy choice … but are you willing to settle?