• rm@rmbastien.com

Technical Debt

Technical Debt

Have you ever heard the term Technical Debt? IT people got the smart idea to document cases of sub-optimally built digital solutions into some sort of a ledger. When a project cannot deliver the system according to the original blueprint, to standards, or to the customary good practices, IT folks recognize that this may impede agility or create additional costs in future projects by declaring it a technical debt.

A Closer Look At This Debt

The intention is noble and this is a far better approach than hiding or omitting information. But it can lead any businessperson to falsely believe that (a) the debt is only technical, and (b) that the deficit is being managed. This is far from reality.

Firstly, let’s examine what is negligently called a debt, and ask simple business questions:

  1. Who is the lender?
  2. Who is the debtor?
  3. What are the interests made of?
  4. What is the interest rate?
  5. How much is owed?
  6. How and when is the principal being reimbursed?

The answers are brutal:

  1. You.
  2. You.
  3. Budgetary increases or lost speed pertaining to future business projects.
  4. Nobody knows.
  5. Nobody knows.
  6. At an undefined date, when you ditch your platform and pay for another one.

Not a Debt: A Recognized Quality Issue

As you can see, this whole concept of technical indebtedness in IT doesn’t make sense: this is not a technical debt, it is simply a formal way to recognize that things were built with sub-par quality. Your IT staff may call these situations technical debt, fixes, patches, tactical solutions, or not even mention them. The result is always the same: your enterprise pays for everything, now or in the future, in hard cash or in a reduced business capacity in order to handle change.

It’s Not Their Debt, It’s Yours.

This technical debt is not only a business debt, but it isn’t managed by IT. As long as IT colleagues won’t have real incentives for measuring the costs of lower quality work, the technical debt ledger will pile-up with liabilities without ever attaining any form of balance.

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