By Andrew Neitlich

Separating the good from the great

By Andrew Neitlich

I’m sitting in my home office, waiting for contractors to come and finish the job of adding cabinets to the office. I paid 50% upfront. The contractors have just billed me the next 40% of the job. To them, that makes sense, as 90% of the materials are installed. But to me, they are not 90% done. Doors need to be added. Tiny details need to be taken care of. To me, they are either 0% done or 100% done. Right now, they are at 0% because they are not done.

And, based on their work so far, I worry about their ability to do the final 10% quickly and effectively. So I don’t want to pay them, because I don’t want to give up the only leverage I have — money. I’ll pay them the minute they complete the final 10% of the job.

This gets to the point: Good professionals focus on the first 80-90% of a job. The great ones take great care to make the final 10-20% outstanding. It’s the final 10-20% where the results happen from the client’s point of view. It’s the final 10-20% that determines whether you do what you say, or are sloppy. And it’s the final 10-20% that sometimes takes 80-90% of your effort!

Want to stand out, in both your marketing and your delivery? Get the final 10-20% of your project done with elegance and excellence. Take care of the details at the end. Tie up loose ends. Debug your work. Let the client test drive your work and make final requests.

It may be a pain, but will separate you from the merely good.

  • I agree , although sometimes it’s easier said than done from the contractor perspective. I work with quite a few web designers, and I am more of a backend developer that teams up with the frontend people depending on the project. I see this happen quite often, the client has a product that is about 90% done, but one or two people working on the project leave it be and move on to start another project. Actually this doesn’t just happen sometimes, it happens A LOT more than it should. I frequently remind whoever might be the weak link to finish, but you can only do so much depending on your position in the project.

    I also have been the weak link in finishing certain projects, so I do understand the other side to the story. So many times, a project starts out on paper, looks clean and clear cut, and away we go. The project gets developed, revisions are made, then suddenly the client envisions something they did not see in the beginning. Granted it is our job to inform them this may cost more, or take more time (which typically costs more), but it does happen. The scope creep in many cases causes this to come up, and in other cases it’s just pure neglegance of the project owners. Some clients are extremely good at inserting scope creep without you noticing, and you just have to adapt and catch anything that may push the finish date further out.

    I kinda went full circle with that one, but I agree with you. Whatever the reason is, the project CAN be done on time with the right amount of effort and attention to detail.

  • This may work for your small projects, but think of bigger projects. Maybe think of oa $2M project.

    Would it be reasonable for the web dev firm to float that $800,000 when they were 90% done? They’ve got costs.. payroll, utilities, hosting, etc. When they can show you they’re 90% done at the end of the month – why refuse them their billing? It can really screw with one’s revenue recognition and budgeting.

    I understand your 10% rule, however I’ve learned that there are two ways of judging web projects: By time, and by % completed. % completed means nothing – it’s all about the time. Usually the last 10% completeness of a website takes almost 25% of the time required for the project – either through QA, changes, or just general bug fixes.

    However, if said web firm bails out on the last 10% in either quality or timeliness, they should be fired plain and simple. The web is about details, not “almost done.”

  • ColdRolledSteel

    Damn you Andrew! I’ve got about 5% left on a project from hell with a completely unreasonable customer!

    Now I can’t walk away or just settle for a half-assed wrap-up. I’ve got to make sure that it’s done right. Argh!

    Why couldn’t you have waited a week to write this blog?

  • 90% of the work take 90% of the time.
    The last 10% take the other 90% of the time.

    I don’t remember the source but I find it sadly accurate sometimes ;)

  • codescribbler

    The guy’s name is Vilfredo Pareto, and it’s 80/20.

    80% of time spent on 20% of work
    80% of money from 20% of customers

    For more Pareto trivia…. http://management.about.com/cs/generalmanagement/a/Pareto081202.htm

  • codescribbler

    Haha…I should read my own sources. The principle is mis-named, Pareto didn’t actually come up with it, but another guy using some of his work stuck his name on it.

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