Thursday, February 5, 2009

Do You Really Want to Insist on "The Best"

There is a myth that people always want "the best". I think the sales culture pushes this, because "the best" is usually the most costly, both in terms of dollars and personal energy.  

When I was still associated with the Military, there was a rule of thumb that 60% of the cost delivered the last 5% of performance. That's what the best costs you. The reality is that people generally want what's "good enough". Email, blogs, PHP, Visual Basic and duck tape are all examples of where "good enough" does just fine, thank you.  

I am a big fan of "good enough" for personal reasons. I am probably not "the best" lover, but fortunately I'm "good enough"...


Pawel Brodzinski said...

The whole trick is to decide where the "good enough" exactly is.

I wouldn't say there's a static "good enough" state for blog or email engines. Companies constantly work on small improvements. If blogger developement was stopped people would go to wordpress or somewhere else.

Josh said...

I totally agree. This can be applied almost anywhere, although as Pawel observed, it's a moving target depending on what you are talking about and when.

Take confidence intervals on estimates for example. If you run a monte carlo analysis across well-developed estimates, you can choose to add MR for the effort required based on a 50%, 60%, 70%, etc. confidence interval. If you get much past 70%, it starts costing a LOT extra to squeeze out just a little more certainty.

Everything has a point of diminishing returns.

Josh Nankivel

Andrew Meyer said...

@Pawel - knowing where "good enough" is does offer a challenge. Hopefully it's been discussed prior to the project starting and before imagination, coercision or convincing reluctant stakeholders has had a chance to create requirements reality doesn't require.

@Josh, I never thought of doing monte carlo analysis around this. When I feel that sick, sinking feeling in my gut I start looking for how to retreat.

For what it's worth, I heard the greatest comeback for someone who was putting out unreasonable requirements:

"A pony, you forgot to ask for a pony!"