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The 80/20 Rule in IT Project Management

The 80/20 Rule states that in any project, 80 percent of the work will be done in 20 percent of the time but the other 20 percent of the work will require the other 80 percent of the time. That may sound counterintuitive, but from my experience, it is pretty close to true.

In any formalized IT project, most of the information for planning the project will be at hand and relatively easy to access. There are a plethora of tools for this, from spreadsheets to databases, to COTS reporting apps for monitoring and tracking. Gathering the info we need to get started is easy. That is what computers do best. The tail end of the project is where thing get tough because that is where the outliers and unexpected issues are, or should be.

When implementing an IT project, I always try to identify the easy wins and the high profile targets and make sure they are addressed in the project plan first. Easy wins help build momentum and build confidence, both for the team, and with the rest of the company. High profile objectives help to make sure the project is meeting its objectives and staying on track to complete its deadlines. But what about the project objectives which are not easy wins or critical to the timeline of the project?

I also try to identify project outliers as a part of the planning phase and make sure that they will be handled last and that appropriate time and resources will be allocated for those outliers. There will always be unexpected issues that will crop up and add complexity, and these require additional time and resources. There should be allowances made in the planning phase for the inevitable but unknowable issues that will arise. Planning for the outliers at the end allows critical work to be completed first. Key milestones should be implemented as a higher priority to maintain project deadlines without impacting goals upfront. Delays on the front-end can have far more serious impact than delays at the end of a project. Outliers, particularly if they involve technical difficulties, can impede the momentum of the project. These outliers may cause mixed priorities if allowed to overwhelm planning and objective management, but it is important to remember that they only affect a small portion of the project. A great example of all this is the project I managed while working for IBM. I was in charge of a project to integrate several different flavors of Linux and UNIX into an Active Directory environment. Most of this would be fairly easy to integrate, except that we also had to contend with AIX (it was IBM after all). The older versions of AIX didn’t have a PAM module. There was a custom LAM module with a LAM to PAM converter, but the configuration was finicky and had to be set specific for each machine. Those AIX systems were the outliers, and we planned to implement them last.

As a part of the process, we designed the AD environment, configured and tested it. We rolled out the integration scheme for a test batch of the Windows systems, which was successful, then rolled it out to the rest of the Windows servers. An easy win. We then implemented the OpenLDAP servers which would pass through the calls from the rest of the Linux and UNIX servers to Active Directory. This was the high priority part of the project. We tested that implementation, and after a few minor adjustments, we started rolling it out to all the Linux, Solaris, and HP-UX systems. Once that was completed, we moved on to the final planned part of the implementation, the outliers, where we knew we would have issues. We scheduled maintenance windows for each AIX system, took backups, and made sure we had a fall back plan for each system, as we slowly implemented the integration tools for each. Because the AIX systems required more planning, more work, and had more issues, they took almost as long as the rest of the systems combined, even though the AIX servers were only small percent of the total number of servers. Then we ran into the unexpected.

We were told after we had all the systems integrated that we also had to integrate our user management into the IBM Blue Book directory service, so that any user account for our systems that was not active in the Blue Book would not be active in our directory services. We had to scramble to develop some custom code to compare user accounts each night and disable any in our system that were not active in the IBM Blue Book. Fortunately, that did not take too long, and we stayed on target to meet our deadlines. As a part of this project we created a LDAP Cookbook for the schema we had created, since we had modified the Active Directory and integrated it with Linux and UNIX via OpenLDAP. Because the cookbook had been a part of the start of the project design and planning, we did not have to go back and try to document everything at the end. We just had to verify the documentation was correct and understandable to everyone else. We already knew the information worked because we had being using it in the integration process for each server type as the procedure manual.

The 80/20 Rule is a useful guideline for project planning if nothing else as a sanity check. If I can get 80 percent of the work done up front and leave the outliers and other issues until last, the projects always progress much smoother.

The orginal article is on my site with my other writing at
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About the art of interviewing at

Check it out. A good read for job hunters or those who are employed.

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I have a new blog post about jobs and job titles.

Check it out:
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I have a new site for blogging about IT stuff at Check it out. I will be putting up info about IT related events, technical docs I am working on or have done, and blogging about social issues with in IT that I think are worth talking about. Feel free to spread the word.
airshipjones: (Plunge)
Well, it looks like I have a new job. I will be starting as the IT Manager at LeadClick on May 10th. This is awesome and really where I want to be going with my career. There are a bunch of things that made me really look forward to the job there. The technology I will be implementing will be cutting edge without being bleeding edge. They are a fiscally sound and profitable public company. And they have a ping pong table in the lobby! They are close to all my friends at my last job at PlayFirst. There are lots of places to eat and hang out near there. And it is easily BARTable. I was being considered for a couple other positions, but they either paid less or were contract positions with no real benefits.

In some ways it has been nice to have some time off, get some things done around the house, and get my perspective on what I want to do revitalized. There is still plenty to do around the house, but with the days getting longer I think I will still be able to continue the momentum we have developed in getting things done at home.

So, on to the home front. Things have been pretty good despite the financial belt tightening we have had to do. I have gotten a lot of paperwork and bureaucratic stuff taken care of like taxes, financial aid stuff and more. We have also been cleaning up the yard, the garage and the sheds. Dany and Lon have restarted the online book and eBay sales as well, and that has been going quite well too.

I am sure there is a huge backlog of things I will need to deal with once I start the new job. Both for them and when we have some money rolling in. But for now things are looking pretty good.
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I was notified that my job at PlayFirst will be ending in a month. The severance package they are offering seems decent, though I need to look at it in more depth when I feel up to it. I have been there for two and a half years, and I have really enjoyed it until recently. The last several months things have gotten harder and harder as friends have been bullied out, laid off for 'performance' reasons that were bogus, and the priorities have been shifting. The whole company has taken on a pall, and it affected me too. I don't think I realized how much until today.

I left early today, had a drink with a few of the others who were also being given the boot, and headed home. I talked stuff over with the family, and started revising my resume. I have already put out about a half dozen resumes to promising looking companies with openings.

I think I will be glad to move on at this point. A new challenge, new scenery, and a break from the problems at PlayFirst. I didn't create and couldn't fix the real problems there and that I had no voice in their 'solution'.

If you are interested in seeing my resume, or know of available jobs, you can see it here or forward contact me at I am looking for an IT Manager or Senior Systems Administrator position here in the Bay Area.
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This is reposted from Dawn's LJ. We are looking for a Web Dev for a project we are working on. Details are here:
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At work, we had a potluck with awards for four categories for foods. I brought in three flavors of our Rabbitwarren mead and we won the Overall category, as a write-in no less. Everyone that tried it loved it and I was quite pleased with how much everyone liked it.

If you are interested in getting some from us, let us know and we can work something out.
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Twice daily power outages at work really suck. Not getting to sleep until 5:30AM and being awakened by a pager at 9AM for server being down (for the second day in a row) is just the capper. And it looks like this will continue until after we get the new UPSs installed and charged tomorrow. The new office is great otherwise.


The new UPSs came in today. Four new 2200VA rack mountable APC UPSs. 200lbs each. They are charging now and we will get hopefully get all this fixed tonight. I will sleep with a fan or in front of an AC unit tonight.
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We have a couple high priority positions open that I thought I would throw out the word on. We are looking for a VP of Marketing and a Senior Software Engineer (Infrastructure Architect). You can get more info on the details for the positions here. I can say that PlayFirst is a great place to work, for a lot of reasons. If you have questions or want to apply or recommend a friend, let me know and I will gladly pave the way to fame and fortune, or something like that.
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PlayFirst is a great company to work for. Fun, lots of great people, and fun stuff to work on. We’re still looking for a Mac developer that has the qualifications listed below. If you know anyone that might be a fit, please let me know. Beyond that, if you have any off-the-wall ideas on how to attract a potential candidate, I’m all ears! Yes we post on craigslist and dice, and yes we personally review every single resume, and yes, we’ve been looking at linked-in to try to find people. And yes, we’re not beyond attracting candidates who may be currently employed elsewhere and are not actively looking, but who would like working here much more (ahem – who wouldn’t?).


Senior Software Engineer - Mac
Solid OpenGL programming experience
Expert level C++ in a Mac environment
Solid on both Carbon and Cocoa API's
Demonstrated ability to adhere to scheduled and team-agreed timelines
Demonstrated strong knowledge of object-oriented design and implementation
Must have excellent written and verbal communications skills
Must be a team player and be responsible for individual assignments within the team
4 or more years experience professional software development
3 or more years experience C++ development
Bachelor's degree (or higher) in Computer Science
Eligibility to work in the U.S. without sponsorship
See the full job description here:
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So, because I don't post things of substance very often, here is stuff on what is going on for me.

Well, since starting work at PlayFirst, many things have improved in my life. The job doesn't pay as much as I was making as a consultant, but overall, I am much better off. The health benefits, and other benefits have been very good for me. I really like I the people I work with, and I am getting to do some cool stuff.

Working at PlayFirst has been good for me in a lot of ways. Even when I get really busy, it still feels fun, and I get a lot of support. My work stress is much lower and I don't take that home with me. My health has been good, and even with virtually everyone around me getting sick, I have stayed healthy. I feel a lot of of satisfaction in the things I am doing.

I may have mentioned that we have a yoga class at work two days a week. That has been very good for me, and the instructor is very good. I would highly recommend her to anyone looking to do gentle athayoga. You can get more info about Kristie and her practice here.

Also, some months ago, the marketing director at work got a bunch of free six months memberships to 24 Hour Fitness. I snagged one and have been going about two times a week. I have worked up to running about 3 miles and recently added some weightlifting to rehabilitate my left shoulder which was injured in a car accident about 7 years ago and never really has recovered properly.

I think I want to start riding bike to work next when possible, just because I really don't want to give the oil companies any more money than I have to. I have a couple options about how to proceed with that. I'm interested in getting feedback on ways to make that more feasible when the weather gets bad.

Home life has been slowly making progress. There are things I need to do, but most of them are not high priority. [ profile] uncledark is looking for work as a game designer. He has realized that being self-employed as a therapist is not what he wants to do, though he likes help people. I really want to encourage him in this endeavor, and I think he will be very good at it, but the job search has been slow going. [ profile] purplerabbit is dealing with various health issues, and some screws up from a change in our health insurance (it is nice to have real insurance!). [ profile] purplerabbit has been doing a lot of writing and is quite pleased by her efforts there, and will be flying to the east coast in the spring to give a talk on one her older books because it is still very popular.

I would say that the only thing that is a problem right now is that money is kinda tight because I have the only real income. I think we will get through this though, and we have already taken some steps to reduces expenses. I'd like to have some money set aside in case of emergencies, and we don't really have that. But for now we have a nice place to live, the bills are paid, and I don't feel a need to buy anything expensive anyway.

So, overall, I am healthier, happier, busier, and feeling more satisfied with my life than I have in quite a while.
airshipjones: (Default)
Playfirst, the very fun game development company I work for, has several position open. The one that we need to fill as a high priority though is a Senior Software Enginner for the Mac platform. We develop games for Mac and PC and we lost our Mac developer and we could really use a good person in that position.

Here is the full job description )

To see this job and others on our website, check out the link here.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions. I am always glad to refer friends and colleagues.
airshipjones: (Archer)
I have accomplished a LOT today. I don't feel particularly energetic, or especially clever. I didn't feel rushed or pressed. I just felt like I had the spoons to get done all the things I needed to do, and some things I have been putting off for a while. And each thing I accomplished help me feel better and more confident about doing the next thing. I'm not up for posting a long list of things accomplished, but I just feel like posting about it, I guess because I have the spoons for that too.
airshipjones: (Riding Along)
It is a minor thing really, but I do find IM to be a useful tool for checking in with family and friends. It is not very disruptive for me, and I can continue to work and chat at the same time, when I find it necessary to communicate via chat. But the site where I am currently working it seems they have all the ports for IM blocked.

Ah, well. If it is important, I am sure folks will reach me via phone, or email, or here.

Update: Thanks to [ profile] perlandria I have discovered Meebo which works quite well, doesn't require an account with them, a proxy server, works with all my existing IM accounts, and is easy to use. Thanks!
airshipjones: (Archer)
The company I am working at, Cornerstone Research, is looking for a Project Administrator for the San Francisco Office. The company is very progressive, and I like everyone here in the Menlo Park office. I haven't been up to the SF office, but I believe it is BARTable. Let me know if you are interested and I will send details.


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April 2012

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