Want to have some fun? Gather several of your technology colleagues or
outside collaborators and ask them to share their favorite technical debt
horror stories. You’ll hear about bad code, legacy platforms, and repetitive
outages — and you’ll quickly realize that you’re not alone in the uphill
battle to avoid and reduce tech debt.
I tell many of my tech debt horror stories in my upcoming book,
Digital Trailblazer: Essential Lessons to Jumpstart Transformation
and Accelerate Your Technology Leadership. And I’m not shy in sharing some of the technical debts that I had a hand
Now griping and venting about tech debt can be fun, but it’s a temporary
stress reliever and can be detrimental when other people are blamed for the
predicaments. Be the
that offers solutions to top tech debt issues and develops standards that
minimize introducing new tech debts.
Here are my recommendations on how to avoid bogging down your DevOps teams
and IT organizations with technical debt.
1. Increase time for agile planning and documenting solutions
You don’t see pro football teams figuring out new plays in the huddle during
a game. There’s a playbook that’s developed and continuously improved –
based on team strengths, past performances, their opponent’s weaknesses, and
the game circumstances.
There’s an analogy with agile development teams that develop solutions for
user stories at the start of the sprint or have shallow backlogs with no
planning for future releases. I wrote about this and other forms of
just-in-time planning and solving them with agile continuous planning
in last week’s post.
Teams that aren’t planning their solutions, allowing time to iteratively
improve them, and documenting their architectures are more likely to create
technical debt – and they are certainly less likely to recognize
opportunities to reduce existing debt.
2. Institute disciplines to challenge assumptions and review existing
Trust me, I get it. I was a developer once and loved coding elegant
solutions. And I disliked reading other people’s often-crappy code,
especially if I had no choice and had to perform refactoring with surgical
But times have changed! DevOps teams have cloud services, open-source
libraries, freely available coding examples, low-code / no-code options, and
in-house microservices to leverage when reviewing requirements and
considering solutions. The last thing you want is teams to jump into mob
programming without considering how to best leverage existing solutions.
agile team leads
to instill discipline when brainstorming solutions. Developing too much code
increases the likelihood of creating new technical debt. Reusing and
reapplying existing vetted code – that not only reduces debt it also reduces
the amount of code DevOps teams need to support.
3. Define your devops non-negotiable policies on reducing technical debt
When you define a policy as non-negotiable, it becomes a cornerstone of
agile operating principles. DevOps teams either get it, or they come to the table with challenges and
requests for exceptions.
What are some non-negotiables to consider?
So go ahead, vet, share stories, and learn about how your colleagues manage
technical debt. Then, become a
and lead the way for DevOps teams to manage it.