Managing Complexity


Share on LinkedIn

It should come as no surprise to anyone that has been semi-conscious over the past decade, that our worlds are becoming increasingly complex. Our jobs, and those of our customers are more complex and difficult. Fewer people doing more. The rate of change is accelerating. We have too little time to accomplish even our “A” priorities. In a recent IBM CMO Study, 79% of the respondents expect high/very high level of complexity over the next 5 years, yet only 48% felt prepared to deal with it.

There are lots of technologies, some of which many of the readers may sell, that are supposed to make our lives easier. Instead, they seem to have made us more available. We are reachable 7×24 and with new mobile technologies, there is no place to hide. We can be reached wherever we might be.

Dealing with the ever increasing complexity of our business and personal lives is the issue for all of us and our customers. Getting some level of sanity, or at least manageability is critical to all of us.

Managing complexity for our customers–helping them radically simplify or even just deal with it–can become one of the greatest areas of value creation for us. There are all sorts of ways we might look at this. Clearly, many of technology, IT, Cloud or software solutions can help this. Taking some of the customer’s work over, through various forms of outsourcing can do this. Providing insights and ideas to help customers look at their businesses in different ways, simplifying them, can also be helpful.

There are ways we can help our customers in managing complexity in their buying process. Being the “easiest to do business with” can be an important differentiator. Easy buying processes, painless contracting, order entry, customer fulfillment. Easy, responsive customer service extends this value through the life cycle of the customer’s relationship with us.

Selling differently can reduce the complexity. Sometimes our reactions to complexity are the opposite of what is needed. It is almost natural in a complex world to provide very complex responses. Our interactions with the customer become more complex, we bring more resources, we drill into issues in great detail, we present our solutions, differentiating them with overwhelming amounts of data and information.

Overlay that with the pride we have in our solutions. We believe in what we sell, we are proud and want to inflict that pride on our customers. Burying them in 200 page PowerPoint presentations that makes Castro’s 9 hour speeches seem like examples in brevity. We further inundate them with every relevant and irrelevant piece of marketing materials we can provide. (Sometimes, I think sales people think customers make decisions based purely on the weight of materials and information we provide on our solutions.

In the end, our customers are drowning in information and data from us as well as our competitors. They are confused, frustrated, overwhelmed, and sometimes paralyzed. Rather than sorting through everything and making a decision, it’s easier for them to live with the status quo and make no decision.

Radical simplification in how we work with our customers, both during and after their buying process becomes a valued differentiator. Managing or removing complexity through their entire customer experience becomes the most valued aspect of our solution.

There’s an added benefit to managing or removing complexity for our customer. It has the potential of managing or removing complexity (and cost) from our own organizations and businesses.

What are you doing to manage or remove complexity for your customers? Not only in the solutions you provide, but in the customer experience you create.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. I think there’s good research coming out that is consistent with the importance of simplifying customer decision-making, and actually that customers WANT LESS choices in a number of different ways. Which kind of goes against providing so darned many customer support options.

    What you’ve talked about here, I suspect, is going to be a major issue over the next ten years. Cool.

    There’s a complementary issue, which has to do with complex SYSTEMS, and how companies are using systems of such complexity, that they themselves can’t completely understand how they work’ neither can they control those systems.

    Google search is one of those, and if you’ve notices search results getting worse, one reason may be that Google continues to add more and more factors to their search algorithms, and it affects the user experience, and there seems no easy way out. That’s typical of a complex system; that once it reaches a certain point, you can’t fix it by adding more complexity.

    Complex and Super-Complex systems are kind of a hobby interest of mine, and I’ve written a bit at:


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here