Make Technical Debt Visible

Some folks have told me in their agile projects that they are able to deal with technical debt as they find it. They are a lucky few. But more have been stumped: “I find something. I really can’t fix it now. But I don’t know what to do with it.” I’ve suggested putting it on the backlog, which of course, incurs a context switch when you’re finally ready to deal with it. But, the debt is visible. And you can size it. And schedule it.

Arnon thinks the backlog is the right place to deal with technical debt, too. In Make technical debt explicit, he says

  • It will not be forgotten
  • It will not be hidden
  • It will be managed

The transparency the backlog provides is critical for making good decisions about the product and the project. Technical debt needs to be as visible as everything else. Maybe more so, because the more debt you have, the slower any future development will be.

2 Replies to “Make Technical Debt Visible”

  1. I have watched team after team try this and still let technical debt kill them. They usually have a culture of avoiding important work to give the impression of making progress. I don’t know how to solve the larger problem, so I don’t know whether I’ll ever see this technique really work.

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