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Tradeoff Between Control and Simplicity

At the crux of many management decisions today is the tradeoff between control and simplicity.

Brands like to boast about simplicity. "We’re really simple to use, simple to do business with." Nobody boasts about their complexity. "We’re really complex to use, complex to do business with."

But look at the phone market. Those who can afford to are buying smartphones as opposed to simple phones. Smart is complex and complex is good when it helps us lead better, more efficient lives.

Smartphones give you more control over your life. They make things more convenient. Smartphones are extraordinarily complex devices but they do their best to hide this complexity.

It’s not always possible. The sheer number of apps available is mind-numbing. How to choose the right one? And then there’s the small screen to consider. If the app has lots of features and buttons well, that’s a real challenge.

“Google split up its Drive apps into three separate standalone apps: Sheets, Slides, and Docs,” Lydia Leavitt wrote for TNW in May 2014. “Facebook separated its chat offering, Messenger, into its own standalone app, and Foursquare broke its app in two to launch Swarm, an app focused on social mapping. A strategy that all of these large tech companies share: the conscious uncoupling of products colloquially called unbundling.”

Apps are becoming taskified: focused on very specific tasks. In order to make things simpler they are streamlining and reducing distractions. So is the web in general. Look at how Amazon and Walmart organize their websites. Gone is the global navigation from most pages, gone is the general and the contextual. Gone is the stuff that is not connected with the task at hand. If you’re interested in classical and nylon-string guitars, then 90 percent plus of the Amazon page you arrive at is about classical and nylon-string guitars.

With cloud computing we see the end of the Features Arms Race. For years, product marketing has been about new features. But with cloud computing we see the advent of a Service Culture. Features are important but you don’t have to decide right now which feature you will need. You can change your subscription plan over time as your needs change. What do customers care about when it comes to Cloud services? Price, reliability, security, simplicity. The way customers buy Cloud services is not the same as the way they buy products.

Sometimes, the control-simplicity tradeoff is organizational. IT departments absolutely hate this whole Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture. They’d have much better control if they could lock everything down.

Security equals complexity. The more secure, the more annoying. The news is often filled with data and security breaches, but customers don’t care that much. They keep doing business with these companies because they don’t want the hassle of changing. When customers are forced to go through extra security steps they get mad.

Some governments claim that by publishing everything they are being transparent, being democratic, putting the citizen in control. But when you can’t find anything what sort of control is that? And when what you do find is written in legal mumbo jumbo, what sort of control is that?

These are key challenges for management in a Big Data world: How to balance control and simplicity? How to make the right tradeoffs? 

About the Author

Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.

 
 
 
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