Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

Why Distinction Bias May Undermine Digital Transformation

When I was a young boy, my father introduced me to a valuable decision-making tool. It was what he called “The Franklin T” (sometimes called Franklin’s Rule).

The premise is simple. When you have a difficult decision to make, take a piece of paper and make a large “T” to form two columns. In one column, list all the ‘pros’ related to the decision. In the other, all of the ‘cons.’ In this way, Franklin’s thinking went, you will present your mind with both sides of the decision equation at one time, and you will better understand what is most important to you and, thus, make the best decision for yourself.

It’s a simple, yet powerful tool that I have repeatedly used in my life when faced with difficult decisions.

When faced with selecting a new technology or approach to support their digital transformation efforts, business and IT executives often employ a seemingly similar approach when they compare vendors or options side-by-side. It would appear that they are using this side-by-side comparison to evaluate the pros and cons of each option.

This approach is most easily seen in the form of the various spreadsheets enterprise leaders use during the evaluation of a technology or vendor solution. These spreadsheets dutifully list all of the important elements of the technology or solution under evaluation with weightings and other decision-aiding criteria to help the leadership team compare and contrast the competing options.

But while this comparative approach may, on the surface, appear to be similar to using Franklin’s T, the results are quite different.

In fact, while Franklin’s approach, when used correctly, helps you find clarity of intent and purpose, comparing two solutions or vendors side-by-side is much more likely to create what psychologists call distinction bias — and undermine your digital transformation efforts.

The Problem with Choice

Distinction bias is “a tendency to over-value the effect of small quantitative differences when comparing options,” as described by Nir Eyal in his blog Distinction Bias: Why You Make Terrible Life Choices.

In practice, it means that when we try to decide by comparing two choices side-by-side, we are likely to put far too much value in minute differences between the options. During evaluation, we assess the alternatives quantitatively, but those criteria tend to have little value during the actual use of the technology or solution, during which, we tend to evaluate it qualitatively.

It is this shift in perspective between evaluation and use that causes the disconnect. When we are doing this type of side-by-side comparison, we are using what researchers Christopher K. Hsee and Jiao Zhang of the University of Chicago call joint evaluation mode. When we use the technology or approach, however, we are in what they call single evaluation mode.

Distinction bias is also the reason that having too many choices can lead to things such as dreaded ‘analysis paralysis’ and can leave us feeling less happy with our decisions overall.

When it comes to simple decisions, such as Nir Eyal’s TV purchase (from his blog), the consequences may be minimal. But when it comes to the bet-the-company type of decisions incumbent in digital transformation, the impact of distinction bias can be extremely damaging to the organization.

Overcoming Distinction Bias During Transformation

The big problem with comparing vendors, technologies or approaches when it comes to digital transformation efforts is that there is almost never a simple, direct comparison to make. As I discussed in my article Finding Transformational Success by Ignoring Labels, the labels that the major analyst firms and industry pundits love to assign to things tend to obfuscate rather than provide clarity.

While it may seem intuitive to compare vendors or solutions in a direct, head-to-head way, it actually undermines your efforts and leads you to make poor decisions because it causes distinction bias to kick in. When it does so, it causes you to shift your focus away from the business problems you’re trying to solve and instead to focus on those minute differences between the vendors or solutions you’re evaluating.

As hard as it may be, you must resist the temptation (not to mention long-standing habit and corporate policy) to do a bake-off and, instead, focus single-mindedly on the business problems you need to solve and the business outcomes you seek.

You must then determine the technical capabilities you need to achieve those outcomes and then independently evaluate every vendor or solution you encounter solely on its ability to help you create and sustain this capability.

Interestingly, when you go through this process, one vendor, technology or solution at a time, slowly evaluating the pros and cons in comparison to the outcomes you seek rather than some competing option, you will be employing the Franklin T precisely as Franklin intended it.

The Intellyx Take

At Intellyx we have a strict policy of not comparing vendors. That’s uncommon in a world in which industry analysts make most of their money and headlines doing just that.

While there are many reasons for this, the biggest is that we don’t believe that these comparisons help enterprise leaders make better decisions. Instead, these comparative assessments typically do just the opposite. They encourage and invite the exact side-by-side comparisons that lead to distinction bias and, ultimately, bad decisions.

Nevertheless, when we advise our technology vendor clients on their go-to-market strategies and messaging, we encourage them to understand and promote their unique differentiators. The challenge, of course, is that they must articulate them not in terms of technical features or comparison to their competitors, but instead from the perspective of how they help their enterprise clients uniquely meet their business challenges and build the capabilities they require.

Communicating value in this way is much easier said than done.

It’s a lot easier for a vendor to spell out a long list of technical features or to explain why their solution is better than a competitor’s in some small way than it is to describe how their solution can help you solve your most challenging business problems and achieve the outcomes you desire.

It’s also easier, at least on the surface, for you to choose your vendors this way. It can seem more defensible when you’ve employed a seemingly logical competitive analysis. But while it may be the natural path for both you and the vendors trying to sell to you, it’s a trap you must avoid.

Getting this focus right is, in itself, a critical capability for the modern enterprise leader. As the tsunami of emerging technologies continues to crash on the shore of the enterprise, the ability to make the right decisions will be essential.

You must separate those technologies that have the potential to be transformative to your organization from those that may be fabulous, but which will not provide your organization with a competitive advantage. You cannot do this if you fall into the distinction bias trap. You must stay focused on your business outcomes and the capabilities that will help you achieve them. Doing so will be a critical enabler of your success now and in the future.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.

Latest Stories
Dhiraj Sehgal works in Delphix's product and solution organization. His focus has been DevOps, DataOps, private cloud and datacenters customers, technologies and products. He has wealth of experience in cloud focused and virtualized technologies ranging from compute, networking to storage. He has spoken at Cloud Expo for last 3 years now in New York and Santa Clara.
Your job is mostly boring. Many of the IT operations tasks you perform on a day-to-day basis are repetitive and dull. Utilizing automation can improve your work life, automating away the drudgery and embracing the passion for technology that got you started in the first place. In this presentation, I'll talk about what automation is, and how to approach implementing it in the context of IT Operations. Ned will discuss keys to success in the long term and include practical real-world examples. Ge...
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Wooed by the promise of faster innovation, lower TCO, and greater agility, businesses of every shape and size have embraced the cloud at every layer of the IT stack – from apps to file sharing to infrastructure. The typical organization currently uses more than a dozen sanctioned cloud apps and will shift more than half of all workloads to the cloud by 2018. Such cloud investments have delivered measurable benefits. But they’ve also resulted in some unintended side-effects: complexity and risk. ...
Sanjeev Sharma Joins November 11-13, 2018 @DevOpsSummit at @CloudEXPO New York Faculty. Sanjeev Sharma is an internationally known DevOps and Cloud Transformation thought leader, technology executive, and author. Sanjeev's industry experience includes tenures as CTO, Technical Sales leader, and Cloud Architect leader. As an IBM Distinguished Engineer, Sanjeev is recognized at the highest levels of IBM's core of technical leaders.
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Jo Peterson is VP of Cloud Services for Clarify360, a boutique sourcing and benchmarking consultancy focused on transforming technology into business advantage. Clarify360 provides custom, end-to-end solutions from a portfolio of more than 170 suppliers globally. As an engineer, Jo sources net new technology footprints, and is an expert at optimizing and benchmarking existing environments focusing on Cloud Enablement and Optimization. She and her team work with clients on Cloud Discovery, Cloud ...
This is going to be a live demo on a production ready CICD pipeline which automate the deployment of application onto AWS ECS and Fargate. The same pipeline will automate deployment into various environment such as Test, UAT, and Prod. The pipeline will go through various stages such as source, build, test, approval, UAT stage, Prod stage. The demo will utilize only AWS services including AWS CodeCommit, Codebuild, code pipeline, Elastic container service (ECS), ECR, and Fargate.
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
Behera Rasananda is a technologist, a leader, a key note speaker has more than 20 years experience in across Government, Financial, Heath Care and Insurance Verticals. Mr. Behera has vast experience in Enterprise Cloud and Big Data solutions and Enterprise Architecture. Currently he works closely for Government Solutions on Enterprise Cloud for Federal Government Agency. Scientist Behera managed and partner with clients to make complete end to end solution and Migration to cloud both private sec...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...