Cost of Technical Debt

Technical Debt in one picture

Technical debt is created when the 'proper way' to do things is not followed, or to put it another way, get it working and we'll fix it up later.

Does that 'later' ever come along. I know in the race to deliver value, these small items can be overlooked, especially if the question is 'fix debt' or 'ship new feature'.

Unfortunately these small debts can add up until the status quo is tipped in the balance of technical debt dragging your team down.

This can look like

  1. more support calls coming into the helpdesk
  2. more support impacting the call out rota
  3. longer delivery times when adding new features due to work arounds for that bug that will be fixed in the next version
  4. bad publicity due to slow bug fixing
  5. staff turnover due to quality team members losing faith in the team.

The first step in managing this technical debt, is to make it visible. Add it to the issues list and backlog, and help the product owner understand what a pain it creating during the development process.

Once it is visible, it can then be prioritised or perhaps the decision can be made to live with it. At least it is a conscious choice.

This series on the topic by the sharp folks over at 18F draws a nice, clear picture of what it is and why you need to do something about it.