advanced mathematics

Maybe not advanced, but to my brain, any kind of math is pretty advanced.

I had a big proposal to do last week and all over the weekend (as I might have mentioned once or twice in order to woo the sympathy vote, a tactic that appears to have been largely unsuccessful thus far) and a lot of it has been working out resourcing for the project and how much I think it might take to deliver.

Normally, this isn’t too difficult – it always involves a bit of guesswork and assumptions, but I’ve been doing this for long enough to have a fair idea of how much effort it takes to do something.

This project was a little different as it was a consortium bid – I wont mention names or projects.  BTW, if you happen to have stumbled here from my LinkedIn profile via Flickr (well done, by the way :)) I hope what I have to say is appealing to colleagues and potential future employers alike.

Consortium are always interesting – each party has its own role to play and the prime contractor, in this case my company, has to assemble the team, the skills and technology and present the overall solution.  Which is good, although a challenge when there are overlaps in ability and expectations – not so here though – well, ability, yes, but expectations, not so much

The problem I had, and this comes back to the original headline is the math.

The resource effort has to be worked out as number of days to deliver the project by phase and by task and by role.  Makes sense – you would want to see where the effort and cost was going and what to expect.

Trouble is, I had one set of numbers for the project in man days.  One set in $ and the other split between 2 roles and companies as a % of $

So, company A says to deliver task y, it costs say $50,000.  That is performed by role 1 at $xx a day. However, to deliver task y as a whole, we know takes 3 companies, 4 different roles, one of which is expressed as a % of effort for role 1

It gets harder when task z is made of up of 2x $20,000 and 2x $10,000 blocks, plus $20,000 of role3

It took a whole week to unpick the numbers and work out how many days by whom were spent on which tasks and what that added up to in terms of day rates per task and per phase.

Then I discovered the customer wanted it per hour and I’d averaged out the 1/2 days and 2 hour fractions here and there to make the numbers easier but keep the cost the same.

Unpick the unpicking..

Red wine, however, and Excel spreadsheets on 4 hours sleep under pressure really does help.  You know that good feeling that you have after the first drink?  Be it a pint or a large glass of red wine – its the same – there’s a kind of energisation and focus of the senses.  Its the very same thing that makes drinking so damn dangerous when it comes to driving, cos with the very next drink, that all does horribly wrong and that misplaces sense of power goes tits up big time.

Anyway, back to the topic – I wasnt driving and only had one glass of wine, but it really works!  I managed to sort all the numbers out, balancing overall hours spent back to the original estimates and costs for 4 companies in the consorium and had the whole thing ready on time.

Happy bunny.

The next bit and resulting proposal assembly scramble wasnt so pretty and ended up with me working through the night for the whole weekend, and we submitted the bid with about 5 minutes to go before the deadline, but hey, in is in, right?  LOL!

So yeah, if you’re like me and a bit number blind – have a glass of red, get Excel out and boom, job done in a couple of hours where days of effort before had gotten nowhere.

To current employer – it was tiring, but fun and I hope we win.

To future potential employer – you’re getting someone who knows his stuff really gets the job done, even if he needs a glass or two of red to help 😉

2 Comments on “advanced mathematics

  1. Hey, have you ever heard about DYSCALCULIA? It’s ‘number dyslexia’ and very real. Google it!

    It’s on wikipedia, or, or


    • I was aware in theory that there was such a thing, but had no idea it was ‘official’ so to speak. I’ll take a look, thanks 🙂


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