Saturday, 6 December 2014

Paying debts


It is awesome the benefits  that credit cards brought to us. Where ever we go, for almost anything we buy, we can just use our credit cards! We almost don't  need cash on the wallet anymore, cards are enough! The way they work is quite simple. As far you use them, you accumulate debits with bank that needs to be payed later. Anything different than that will put you troubles and it will stop working.
Such example can be perfectly used as a metaphor for Software Development. From the technical side, we make agreements with business people in order to meet the schedule. We  implement short term solutions, we postpone design decisions that has huge impact on the software being delivered, etc. That is fine once all parts  keep in mind that, "there is no free lunch"! As using credit cards, there will be a time we need the pay for our expanses, otherwise we will be in troubles. It means that business and tech side will need to review the debits created along the way and "pay" for them at some point.

As  Software Engineers, I'd say we fail very often in order to show it to business. If we manage to release the product two, three, four times without even touch on the Tech Debt subject, business could argue "why wouldn't the Engineers make it once more"? Then Releases will take more time to be delivered, developers will be under pressure, more and more bugs appearing on production, etc. Suddenly the software that was released just few years ago to production now is being called "legacy... Well, you may have seeing it already, and you also may now what happens from this point....

I've  been approaching this scenarios using some techniques, some of them I'm able to describe:


  • The new Bridge Metaphor: Believe me, nobody from business will easily accept stop everything in order to pay Tech Debts. I'd say it is at least unlikely to happen. Things need to keep moving and that is natural. So if we find a way to conciliate delivery and improvements would be perfect, wouldn't it? So, there is a Software Design technique I've been using during few years that works well on this cases,  the new Bridge Metaphor. The main idea is try to conciliate delivery and improvements all at the same time. Well, this is what business people want to listen when approaching them with problems i described on the beginning of this post, don't you think?
  • We need to show to business clearly the problems on not picking up tech debts. Sure, there several other variables that will weight here that makes it easier or harder, i.e: Organisation Mature, how business trust on tech team, complexity and risks involved, etc. BTW, another thing that I'll  look on such scenarios  prioritise the debts that if payed now, will have immediate effects on the following releases.Following this approach, the task of showing the importance of prioritise debts becomes easier. I'm telling that couse there are times where there are some many debts to pay, that picking try to prioritise them aleatory usually ends in long meetings with frustrations on both sides (business and IT).

As mentioned before, the point sometimes is more complex than that. Even the techniques i mentioned will demand some effort and flexibility from both sides (business and IT people). BTW, i believe these tips can help even in more complex scenarios.





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