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Planning for Technical Debt

For systems with a lot of technical debt problems, it’s not uncommon to spend 20-50% of on-going development time toward repaying that debt. Obviously that has an impact on project schedules. The risk, however, of ignoring these problems is sudden and impactful failures, perhaps in production. Work focused on technical debt needs to be prioritized and part of the project plan. By chipping away at technical debt in a long-term fashion, it is possible to reduce the risk of catastrophic production failures, improve the morale of developers, and ultimately speed up development on legacy systems.

The decision to incur technical debt should be a conscious one.. However, unrealistic time tables and feature pressure often force a team to cut corners. There may be valid reasons to take technical shortcuts, but that decision should reside with the PM/PO, not the engineers building the product. Decisions about product quality should always sit with the individual(s) making scope, schedule, and resource decisions.

My company has written a white paper on this which you can review at here .


Comment from admin
Time: October 25, 2011, 10:22 am

Good points. I’d add that a certain amount of tech debt is inevitable, as the technologies and frameworks products are built upon evolve. How much you can bear will be heavily influenced by the amount of new app dev you are planning on your project.

Comment from Anand
Time: November 24, 2011, 7:18 am

It might so happen these cutting corners become debt with huge interest in long run which you might not be able to repay back. So its important to evaluate the shorts cuts if its worth taking.

Comment from admin
Time: November 29, 2011, 2:33 pm

Clearly there is no right or wrong answer. Dev teams may incur uncomfortable levels of technical debt from time to time, due to business drivers. I think that as long as the downstream costs are understood by all players (read Product Owner and other business stakeholders) and you are making decisions based on that understanding, the

Comment from admin
Time: November 29, 2011, 2:36 pm

By the way, a colleague of mine is doing a webinar on technical debt on Monday, December 5 at 11:00 am pacific time.

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