My thoughts on tech debt

Let’s dive into a straightforward discussion about tech debt. It’s a familiar concept, but often its real impact is misunderstood or overstated. Here’s my take on it.

Not just a buzzword

First off, tech debt isn’t just a buzzword to throw around in meetings. It’s sometimes used as a political tool, with suggestions like “Let’s refactor this” or “We could optimize that” sounding constructive. But we need to ask: are these suggestions truly about improvement (and how?) or just about appearing proactive?

Creating a process to evaluate tech debt

We introduced a structured process to evaluate tech debt, I was tired of “tech debt meetings” trying to prioritize raw ideas that were thrown in other meetings. We began asking important questions like, “What value does this add?” or “What’s the severity?”, and “What other teams might be affected?” This approach forced us to think critically about each proposal, moving away from casual suggestions to well-thought-out plans.

BTW, after introducing that process, tech debt suggestions went down dramatically. No more casual suggestions of refactoring stuff without justification.

Prioritizing tech debt

Consider this scenario: a team member proposed advanced metrics monitoring for a specific service as a tech debt. It was an intriguing idea, but not what we needed most. Our actual need was more tests for that service (which almost didn’t have any) – not as glamorous as new metrics, but far more critical. This illustrates that tech debt is about prioritizing necessities over nice-to-haves.

“I think that if I add some monitoring to that service and put it on a cute dashboard, I can show it off to the rest of the department and maybe it will help me getting promoted” - No. tech debt isn’t necessarily what you want to work on. It’s probably the exact opposite.

Now, about those “tech debt / quality weeks.” If a task is genuinely critical, it shouldn’t wait for a special week. It should be part of our regular workflow. If you believe that tech debt tasks won’t get prioritized unless you have special weeks for them, it just means that these tasms are not that important.

In conclusion, tech debt should be about strategic improvements that align with our main goals, not chasing the latest trends or personal preferences. It’s about impactful changes that enhance our systems and make our work more efficient. Let’s keep our focus sharp and our priorities clear.