An interesting by-product came out of this quiz for all of us here at VL: what people chose as their answers to each question gave us a peek inside the heads of the quiz takers, namely their thoughts and assumptions on integration and integration as a service.
One of the poorest performing questions on the quiz was “What are the differences between plug-and-play integration solutions and custom designed integration solutions?” The correct answer was D: Plug-and-play solutions work well for small businesses just starting out who have limited to no order volume and are looking for simple point to point data movement. Customized solutions work best for more established businesses with large order volumes that cannot be handled by manual data entry or the point to point plugin. Yet only 18% of people chose this as the correct answer!
So what it is going on here? We call this the “Steve Jobs Effect“: how Steve Jobs and the ubiquitous nature of apps in Western culture has fundamentally changed the way we perceive products versus services in today’s hyper techno-geared world.
VL’s Quiz Answer as of 21/05/2015
As you can see from the answers above, the overwhelming answer question #4 on our quiz was “Plug-and-play solutions always work better than customized solutions, because they’re easy to install, inexpensive, and readily available. Also, customized solutions aren’t scalable like plug-and-play solutions are” with 45% of respondents selecting this answer.
This was a purposely tricky question that we crafted to challenge what we assumed was a common misconception of plug-and-play integration solutions. While the first half of the answer could be true (with exception of the “always”), the second half of the answer regarding customized solutions not being scalable was intended to be the dead giveaway. Turns out it wasn’t.
Each of the incorrect answers were designed to challenge common notions concerning plug-and-play integration versus customized integration solutions: price, delivery, and functionality. Yet only 18% of respondents actually got the correct answer, D. This amazed and confounded us: what was going on here?
So we got to discussing the quiz results around the office, and Robin eventually nailed it: It was the Steve Jobs Effect. Which lead us further down this discussion rabbit-hole: how far reaching is the Steve Jobs Effect, and how do we combat this pervasive notion?
What is the Steve Jobs Effect?
Steve Jobs was famous for a lot of things. He brought Apple to the heights it still experiences today, he was a marketing guru (think of all those classic Apple product launch conferences), he was “perhaps the greatest user of technology to ever live […] allowing him to think first and foremost as someone who lives with technology rather than produces it”.
It’s this latter point that brings us to our definition of the Steve Jobs Effect (because this is a fairly common term these days, apparently): Through Jobs’ ability to think as a consumer of technology came the age of the App, and Apps have ruined us all.
The App Store is Apple’s most important invention ever, because it fundamentally changed the way we interact with all technology. But even further, apps have fundamentally changed the way humans interact with and perceive their world. In today’s age, if you have a problem, need an answer to a question, or just need to kill some time: there’s an app for that.
So it’s no wonder why in our quiz 82% of respondents selected the equivalent of an integration app – the plug-and-play integration product – as the correct answer to the question. Apps are cheap, easy to install, readily available, and often come as free add-ons as perks to other apps or programs. We’ve been conditioned by Apple and Steve Jobs to think “there’s an app for that” when it comes to solving even an integration, data flow, or supply chain problem in our businesses and professional lives.
But what’s so wrong with that?
The Danger of the Steve Jobs Effect
Immediately going to the most convenient solution to a complex business issue like data integration is a dangerous way of thinking – in fact, I’ll make the argument that thinking “there’s an app for that” when you encounter a business issue as specialized and complicated as integration isn’t thinking at all. It’s cheating on your math test off the kid who sometimes eats glue. It’s the easy way out without doing your homework and putting in the time and research. It might pay off in the short term (you might pass the test for now), but in the long term it’ll come back to bite you in a bigger way (you’ll fail the final exam and the whole course 3 months from now instead).
Plug-and-play integration products are great, but only up to a point. They might be cheap, or free, at the outset, but when the spaghetti factory of multiple plug-and-play solutions that keeps your business alive turns to mush the second Walmart or Costco want 100,000 units of your product by next week, you’ll be paying for your lack of foresight. They simply aren’t scalable, and customized data integration solutions are. Customized integration solutions tie your business’ entire data flow together into a single solution, instead of the 10 different plug-and-play products you’d need to accomplish even a 10th of a customized solution’s functionality and longevity.
Plug-and-play integration solutions, provided you don’t have a comprehensive and thorough strategy for the scalability of your business down the road (or you don’t plan to grow your business at all), are a product of the short-term and instant gratification thinking that Steve Jobs and Apps have conditioned us to expect from all facets of our lives.
How to Combat the Steve Jobs Effect
The problem I’m left with is how do companies like VL combat against this massive group-think that Steve Jobs and Apps have created? Well, we do things like create great content with the hope that the message will get out there. We create quizzes that are purposely tricky to illuminate gaps in people’s knowledge. Simply, we’re as helpful and friendly as we can possibly be at all points, gently encouraging the SME community to not be so complacent but to instead do their own research and challenge the status quo.
We won’t convince everyone out there to break the mold, or to at the very least invest time and research into big business decisions like plug-and-play versus customized data integration solutions.
But that’s okay. Not everyone can be a winner in the highly competitive market we live in. Some businesses have to lose. The life span of companies today is getting shorter and shorter.
So what can you do to break the Steve Jobs Effect mold?
Plan well into your business’ future: think about where your business is today, and where it could be 3-5 years down the road. Consult with experts, but always look to educate yourself so that you can sit at the table with any solution provider and ask the tough questions. And don’t just opt for the cheap and easy solution for today, because it might just be your business’ downfall tomorrow.
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