The best way to avoid accumulating technical debt is to not incur debt in the first place. In the end, it behooves you as a technology leader to ensure that no avoidable technical complexity is introduced into your projects.
Always keep in mind that the most important variables in apportioning complexity are business priorities and technology capabilities. The trick is to strike the proper balance in the deliverable. A good technical delivery will endeavor to place the bulk of complexity inside the solution black box, making the interaction with the software simpler and more user-friendly, but not at the cost of creating a solution that cannot be implemented or be supported.
Use the Complexity Factor to gauge your overall debt levels and apply the following four principles to keep it under control:
1. Have a quality-first focus
When under pressure to deliver major functionality quickly, never adopt a philosophy of “implement now and fix later.” Later never comes. Don’t sacrifice quality for speed.
2. Establish a well-understood architecture
Your architecture sets standards and filters out unnecessary options that would otherwise add complexity. An established architecture helps to get to solutions faster, which speeds up delivery. Establish governance around the architecture to ensure everyone follows the rules.
3. Adopt industry best practices
You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. There are all kinds of industry best practices out there such as ITIL. When in doubt, seek help from an expert.
If there’s too much technical debt, take the leapfrog approach. You probably don’t have an architecture or aren’t following it. Create a green field environment based on a future state architecture. Build the new environment and convert the applications over one by one. Let the old environment shrink down to nothing, just like your technical debt.
As we’ve seen with the outages in the airline industry, the costs of technical debt can be severe enough to cause a company to lose its competitive advantage and customers. Although every organization pays for technical debt one way or another, prevention will always be less costly.
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