Monday, March 03, 2008

March 10, 2008


Having been involved with the systems methodologies field for over 30 years I have been occasionally asked what percentage of time in a project should typically be devoted to a specific phase of work, for example a Phase 1 Feasibility Study, Phase 2 Systems Design, etc. Basically, the reason the person wants to know this is to use it as a means for estimating the remainder of the project. For example, if I were to say Phase 1 represents 10% of the overall project, they would simply multiply the amount of time spent in Phase 1 by ten. This is an unreliable approach for estimating which is why I usually balk at giving out such figures.

Systems development projects vary in size from large to small and although statistics should certainly be maintained, I still consider this an erroneous approach to estimating. Instead, I recommend basing an estimate on a rough design of the product to be built (the system), including all of its pieces and parts, such as inputs, outputs, files, records, data elements, etc. Some of these components may be reused from other systems, some may require modification, and some may be entirely new. This is called estimating based on the system's "Bill of Materials," a simple concept derived from engineering and manufacturing. Even if a project only involves a single program (as opposed to a major system), I would still examine the types and number of components affected by the assignment.

Having said all of this, let me give you my spin on the proportion of work in the typical systems development project. I have seen many companies skip through the early phases in order to get to the programming phases which is considered the important work. Under this scenario, programming represents 85% of the project. Instead I advocate more time spent in the early phases for better clarity of requirements definition and for producing better specifications for the programmers and DBA's to follow. Under this scenario, I see as much as 60% in the early phases involving systems analysis and design, 15% in programming, and 25% in implementation and review. You heard right, 15% in programming. Why the disparity? Simply because programmers have long suffered from the lack of decent specifications and end up spinning their wheels over and over again trying to deliver what is needed. But if you concentrate on better specifications upfront, the guesswork is eliminated for the programmer.

Some people consider the upfront work to be somewhat frivolous, that the "real work" is down in programming. I don't know why this is, perhaps programming is more tangible since screens and reports can be visibly shown to people. But I do not subscribe to this notion, and believe the vital work to be in the early phases, but then again, I am considered a dinosaur by the "Agile" methodology people. Regardless, if you have to build anything of substance, be it a bridge, a skyscraper, an automobile, or a system or a single program, you have to do your homework first, otherwise you find yourself constantly tearing things down and rebuilding them over and over again. If we built bridges the same way we build systems in this country, this would be a nation run by ferryboats.

One last word on applying percentages to project estimates, the danger here is that you might calculate you are 90% complete; inevitably you will discover the last 10% will take forever. So, my recommendation is to avoid the percentage trap and consider the Bill of Materials you are going to work on instead.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Keep the faith!

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...

"Remember, it's Ready, Aim, Fire; any other sequence is counterproductive."


Friends, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.

Bonnie Wooding, the President-elect of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said, "Many of our members are just starting their careers and I will be recommending that they read this book, especially Chapter 3, Professional Development - a primer for business skills and filled with basic common sense advice that is simple, easy to follow and extraordinarily practical; and Chapter 5, Do’s and Don’ts of the Workplace, an excellent resource for those questions you are too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking foolish."

The Miami Hurricane recently reviewed it (10/22/2007) and said,

"the abundance of information the book provides is a good start for anyone about to take the first step into the real world. Though the concept of adulthood may seem intimidating, it's comforting to know that someone has at least written a guidebook for it."

Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book."

The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


Back in 2003 the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) conducted a survey of the most common complaints of office workers. Office temperature, which we have discussed in the past, topped the list. But there were also others, including office noise which many workers found to be very distracting. However slight, noise can distract us in just about anything, which is why libraries want you to be quiet so that others can concentrate. But offices are typically more hectic than libraries with phones ringing, people visiting, employees meeting and holding discussions, and office equipment humming away. It can all be rather hectic.

In addition to affecting concentration, studies have shown that noise levels also affect worker motivation and contributes to stress. I have also read that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permits noise exposures in the workplace up 90 decibels on the average over an eight hour period. That's like having a radio playing next to you on your desk at medium volume. Try working under such an arrangement for a while and you'll see how it affects your work and why OSHA is concerned.

Sure, music has charms to soothe the savage breast, but too much noise can also create a lot of unnecessary havoc in the office as well, thus affecting worker performance. The intuitive manager will understand the role of noise as it affects the corporate culture and take measures to assure it has a positive effect on their workers, such as installing certain types of wallboard and ceiling tile to absorb sound, establishing quiet zones for work, and separate rooms for meetings and discussions.

So, are managers paying attention to the effect of noise in the workplace? Probably not as much as they should. The fact that many workers are plugging into iPods or other audio devices is indicative that management is not paying enough attention. Such devices can be useful for allowing an employee to focus on their work, but they can also be a safety risk in areas where it is necessary for workers to communicate in certain job functions. Personally, I have a problem with such devices as I believe workers who use them tend to plug in and tune out the real world. Whenever I see such devices, it tells me that managers have abdicated a certain amount of control over the workplace.

Frankly, I think it's time for a lot of managers to take a refresher course in ergonomics, a discipline which seems to have faded from view over the years. At the center of ergonomics is how the workplace affects the human senses, which includes sight, taste, smell, touch, and, of course, hearing.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


I received the following e-mails from my "Pet Peeve" entitled, "Credit Cards":

A D.A. in Ann Arbor, Michigan wrote...

"I was encouraged by my Depression Era parents to get a credit card at the ripe old age of 17. But they stressed the importance of using it for emergencies, not luxury. 33 years later I still have the same account although now it's called Master Card, not Master Charge and I have a couple of others. Credit card debt is easy to get into and a lot of people used the sub-prime second mortgages to pay off credit card debt. We'll all be paying for this crisis."

I received the following e-mail regarding my "Pet Peeve" on "Junk Faxes":

An F.D. in Edomonton, Alberta wrote...

"Quite a few years back I walked into our Real Estate office of a Monday morning and found legal size sheets all over the floor... they were from the FAX machine! A car dealership's sales manager had sent out a ten page list of cars they had "on special" to EACH of our 17 Realtors and ourselves. Now this was in the days of rolls of expensive paper for the FAX but it was also the days where by taping the ends of a document together it would run through the FAX machine continuously... I came back to the office that night and wrote a note not to do a stupid stunt like that again... taped the ends together and dialed the dealership's FAX about midnight and let 'er rip! As you can imagine the "sales manager" called me in the morning and whined about all the paper I had wasted of their's... hmmmm... by the way, I guess some of the employees from the dealership thought it was a good and fair response and we sold two properties out of the incident!"

Again, thanks for your comments. For these and other comments, please visit my "Bryce is Right!" web site.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

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This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."




  • This is really a great post, This comment has all the information about Office noise .I had also read that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permits noise exposures in the workplace up 90 decibels on the average over an eight hour period.

    By Blogger Jonty, At 7:03 AM  

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