Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Eighty Percent -- often good enough

There's a strong case to be made for the "good enough" rule, and for its bedmate the "Eighty Percent" rule a.k.a. the Pareto Principle.

Take a peek at Joe Beda's blog where he talks about his role in the development of "Avalon" (part of the forthcoming Microsoft Vista platform). He explains:

When we were first starting Avalon, I was all about "Go big or go home" and "We should build something only Microsoft can build." In retrospect, the project and the company might have been better served by starting with a much smaller team, aiming lower to start and shipping 5 times over those 5 years. Version 1 might not have been that impressive, but relentless improvement would have built something better factored, simpler, and more in tune with what users actually need.

I named this blog "eightypercent" in honor of the 80% rule. It just so happens there there are lots of 80% rules to apply. In this case, a simpler system that only solved 80% of the problem would have been good enough and would have shipped multiple times already.

I'm quite a keen on this 80/20 rule too (but not a blind adherent). For example, I recently released a freebie tool for Lotus Notes developers/administrators that I called the "Simple Signer" -- one tool for one task.

For more on this theme of overambitious technology design objectives and overblown expectations, there's lots of interesting reading, some of it good for a chuckle, such as: