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The 90/10 Rule: Why the Final Stretch is Often the Toughest


Any seasoned engineering manager is likely all too familiar with the 90/10 rule. This development hurdle is one that often plagues projects, and it doesn't matter what type of device you're creating.

Without good project management, crossing the finish line might seem impossible. So, what is the 90/10 rule?

In simple terms, it's the concept that 90% of the work needed to finish your project will take a mere 10% of the time. But that final 10% push to reach the end? It will eat up 90% of your timeline!

Think of it as an iceberg. If you think the ice you see peaking above the water is daunting, there's a lot more hiding below the surface.

Why Does the Last 10% Create the Most Challenges?

So, why is this issue common enough to be so well-known in engineering circles? All projects are unique, but they can encounter many of the same challenges that result in setbacks.

Here are a few reasons why that final push toward the end of a project takes the most time.

Scope Creep

One issue that can make this undertaking run out of control is scope creep. This phenomenon occurs when the original scope of your development project changes and expands.

Usually, creep begins with a minor change. But before you know it, you're adding many unnecessary features and making changes that force the process back to square one.

The best way to avoid creep is to create defined requirements. Your requirements will detail every aspect of the finished product. That includes its features, design, functionality, etc. The requirements should involve input from every stakeholder to ensure all your bases are covered.

Once you set the specifications, stick to them. It's about setting boundaries and defining the project's scope to avoid doing too much.

Putting Off Difficult Tasks

We've all been there: When you're presented with a mountain of tasks, you tend to gravitate toward the more straightforward items. It's that "I'll figure that out later" mindset. The unknowns will take longer to flesh out, so you prioritize the tasks you already understand.

Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, this approach leaves little room for flexibility. You know how long some tasks will take, but the rest is unpredictable. Therefore, it's easy to miss deadlines and spend significant time on that final 10%.

Tackling those unknowns can help you plan for the rest of the project's milestones more efficiently. It's a concept known as "pre-crastination." Do the challenging aspects of the project first, and the rest will sail smoothly.

Never-Ending Changes

Another productivity killer is constant last-minute changes. We touched on this earlier, but it's such a common issue that it deserves its own mention. Last-second adjustments and alterations to the design are bound to happen.

You can do your best to avoid them with well-written requirements, but they inevitably come up.

Many projects encounter problems because they don't have the inherent flexibility to accommodate every change request. Before making adjustments, you must consider the project's budget, deadline, and how the modification will impact other processes. Failure to do so is what causes expensive delays.

If, after reviewing all these factors, the team decides to move ahead with a last-minute change, at least they know the consequences. A revised budget and schedule must be part of the review.

Over-Committed Resources

It's common for projects to share resources, such as engineers and specialists. There's nothing wrong with that. However, over-committing to multiple endeavors is where the trouble starts. Eventually, things begin to break down as your resources have to juggle several tasks simultaneously.

Communication is usually the first thing to go. Team members have no choice but to skip meetings to get their work done on time, resulting in a breakdown of clarity. Then, that issue snowballs into incorrect requirements, time-consuming revisions, and other problems.

Good project management is critical to avoiding over-commitment. While saving money by having one person contribute to several projects seems ideal, it's not worth it if it creates massive delays.

Unexpected Hurdles

Another factor that creates delays in the final stretch is unexpected problems. We're talking about obstacles that weren't accounted for during the planning phase.

Every project has risks. There are risks that certain features won't be compelling enough to attract buyers, risks that technical details are too impractical to execute, risks of supply shortages during manufacturing, and so much more.

The possibilities are endless, and there are countless ways for the development process to come to a grinding halt.

The best way to avoid these unexpected hurdles is to do risk mitigation early in the project. Identifying risks and developing strategies to overcome them is how you move a project smoothly to the finish line.

It's about planning for all possible scenarios and taking steps to minimize risks at every turn.

Avoid the 90/10 Conundrum

At Voler Systems, we understand the 90/10 rule and effectively circumvent this common pitfall. Unlike many engineering teams that struggle with the 90/10 rule, we have developed a robust project management methodology that effectively neutralizes this issue.

Through a combination of proactive risk management, strict adherence to project scope, and prioritizing difficult tasks early on, Voler ensures the final 10% of a project does not disproportionately consume time and resources. 

Contact us to help make your project more efficient and frustration-free than any you've done before.

Contact Voler Systems Today




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