IT Metrics

5 Steps to Stop the Erosion of Technical Debt

It is not uncommon to postpone maintenance to existing systems in order to get the ball rolling on an exciting new business project. But as Greg Sanker points out, such maintenance often gets postponed to the start date of “never.” As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult and costly over time just to run core activities. In a post at his blog, Sanker examines how people get out of financial debt as a basis for five steps to get out of technical debt:

  1. Know what you owe.
  2. Follow the 10×10 rule.
  3. Reduce your rates.
  4. Do not go all-or-nothing.
  5. Ask for help.

Shrink Your Debt!

Contrary to what daytime TV ads would lead people to believe, there is no hotline for getting out of debt. It is a longer road than that. Begin by forming a current list of areas that need to be updated. Most of these improvements are probably totally IT-centric, which will not generate enthusiasm from the business as a whole. However, when incidents occur, Sanker says this could be the chance to connect specific, applicable types of technical debt to that incident. Thus, part of the solution to preventing incidents from recurring will regularly become “Reduce technical debt!”, and the business will have to believe it.

The 10×10 rule is a useful way to further reduce debt over time, as long as it is applied honestly. Sanker describes it like this:

With a clear understanding of your debt, and the business impact – identify small elements of debt that are directly related to significant projects or efforts. Add these “10%” debts as project risks and propose remediation as a project risk mitigation strategy. For instance – if new applications are targeted to be released onto debt-identified servers, suggest that the project include system upgrades to reduce risk of implementation risks and post-implementation capacity challenges.

When some debt must be allowed to accumulate, allow it to build in the non-critical business systems where risk is reduced. Public-facing servers are not ideal places to let debt build, for instance. Do not allow debt to become a fatalistic proposition though. Always try to squeeze in some maintenance, even if that means extending cycles (“daily tasks deferred to weekly, weekly to monthly”). And nothing is stopping IT from just asking for help. Vendors and partners want to maintain happy relationships and will do what they reasonably can to assist with maintenance.

You can view the original post here:

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