80/20 app development
More for less is always possible
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I wish I could buy my old friend Wilfried Pareto a drink to thank him for helping me become more productive, but he died in 1923. Pareto’s Principle, often referred to as the 80/20 rule, highlights that in much human endeavour 80% of value derives from 20% of the activity. This commonly observed pattern is used to drive focus, simplicity and effectiveness. It helps me in my approach to app development.
More for less
Human history is the story of achieving more for less over time. The development of agriculture, around 7000 years ago, advanced us from Stone Age hunter gatherers. Three Centuries ago 98% were employed on the land producing food and now it’s just 2-3%. A card playing ‘Happy Birthday’ contains more computing power than existed on Earth 50 years ago. More for less is not only possible, it’s inevitable. Science, technology and the intelligent application of knowledge enables us to do many things using a fraction of the resources once required.
Common distribution patterns
There are general distribution patterns that underpin the drive to greater efficiency and prosperity over time. Some examples follow. Sir Isaac Pitman invented shorthand based on his analysis that 700 words (just 0.1% of those in a dictionary) accounted for 80% of those used in conversation. In 1999 0.1% of web sites accounted for 32% of all visits; the top 5% for 75%.
In 1897 Pareto, an Italian economist, spotted the relevance of this pattern by looking at the distribution of income and wealth across the working population. He found a small minority of people earned and controlled the substantial majority of wealth. This was Pareto’s Law which is often referred to as the 80/20 rule. The exact ratio is not important, e.g. 75/5, 80/20, 90/10, but the skewed distribution is.
General application the 80/20 rule
When individuals and businesses undertake an analysis they find that a significant amount of value is driven by a small proportion of their activities, 80/20 or similar. Not only that, but it is often the case that some activities destroy value.
People should focus effort on increasing the 20% of activities that contribute 80% of the value. One way to implement this is to sell more of the same or similar products to customers who share similar characteristics. Another way is to simplify the list of activities as complexity adds costs, causes introspection and slows progress.
Identify the 80% of products, customers and suppliers that contribute just 20% of the value. Try to make them more profitable and productive or, if that is not possible, remove them. Also, stop any activities which destroy value, e.g. time spent on difficult customers who purchase little.
Identify the most valuable and scarcest resource you have, be it time, money or something else. Then arrange everything to generate the greatest value from that resource, e.g. if time is the scarcest resource then measure and optimise value generated per hour.
How I use the 80/20 rule
As I work through the development process for my mobile apps, I have in the forefront of my mind the 80/20 rule. For my grid based game, Scarper, I identified what I consider the aspects of the app which drive 80% of player value. These include, creating a new grid, playing a grid and storing associated data in a database. I am working on the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version of the game, based on these capabilities. I launched an earlier version of Scarper (called Conxy) and was lucky to find someone to work on the music and sound effects. This simplified the activities I needed to address to launch on the App Store.
The 80/20 Principle book by Richard Koch
80/20 Principle and 92 other Powerful Laws of Nature book by Richard Koch
Richard Koch Greatest Hits video by Richard Koch
This post explains why I think the 80/20 rule is important and how it can be applied to significantly improve our effectiveness. In next Sunday’s post I’ll suggest ways to steal like an artist.
Until next Sunday, I recommend you identify and focus on the activities that drive 80% of the value you deliver.