Managing Technical Debt Plays Benefits Against Risks
November 09, 2021

Charles Caldwell
Logi Analytics

Share this

Everyone laments technical debt like it were a high-interest credit card. But just like how your CFO uses debt as capital for the business, the intelligent Product Manager knows that technical debt can help finance your path to market if you know how to manage it well.

Product managers who choose when and where it's acceptable to take on technical debt to overcome limited budget, constrained resources or critical deadlines, and budget their resources to resolve that debt at reasonable points in the future, avoid those nightmare scenarios. They recognize that taking on some debt can deliver real benefits so long as it's managed.

Finding the sweet spot between avoiding all technical debt and leveraging the right amount to get to market on a timeline that matters is a key skill for successful product teams.

Don't Build Too Little … or Too Much

Speed to market is a constant driver for product teams, with a high focus on feature delivery that can lead to an anemic architectural ramp. This is the source of technical debt that most teams are used to seeing. All the velocity is on features, and architecture "just happens" (or doesn't). Features are delivered that are not fully fleshed out, and the foundation they are built on won't support the actual feature requirements. While this is fine for an initial feature release to get feedback, repeated iterations result in a brittle product.

While a lot of technical debt comes from investing too little in supporting architecture, we see too many teams swing the other way and build far too much "infrastructure" upfront. Trying to anticipate everything a feature will ever need to do and build out the most beautifully architected backend for high-scale perfection before a single feature ships.

If the team is building too much enabling architecture at the onset, it's setting itself up for technical debt resulting from a change in requirements. Failing to get features out the door, the team doesn't get feedback until a lot of code is built. If you've got it wrong, you end up with a ton of technical debt in the form of an architecture that will never result in value to the customer.

There are, of course, feature sets that require a large amount of enabling technology. Features that have significant, complex components across multiple application tiers often resist iterative, MVP-style implementation. There are times when the MVP requires a lot of backend capability just to get the most basic version of the feature out the door. These are great cases for a buy/partner/open-source approach. Yes, you may accept some technical debt in the form of integration or "someone else's code," but if there is any risk around feature requirements, technical debt will pay dividends in the short term as you validate the feature. Place finite resources, including talent, toward solutions that could be resolved more efficiently by third-party options instead is another way technical debt mounts.

In the simplest term, reasonable technical debt is a trade-off. It's the result of identifying what's acceptable now that's worth addressing later. That's wholly manageable. What's unforeseen or overlooked that demands attention later is technical debt that every product manager wants to avoid.

To solve this and other varieties of technical debt, choose off-the-shelf options, either at the project's beginning or when they're needed. As noted above, embedded analytics allows managers to place solutions right into the development pipeline and move on. Time and talent spent focusing on other areas of the project offset the costs of buying a solution.

Debt Equilibrium

Technical debt is acceptable and even desired in some instances. When creating a genuinely trendsetting product, getting it to market as soon as feasible is the best way to obtain crucial user feedback. Addressing every possible way the new product will be used may be impossible to predict. So, creating an operational framework with simple, adaptable features that can be reliably built out into a compelling business solution for the client is a terrific way to identify and accept technical debt and leverage it for a project's benefit.

Identify technical debt and prepare for it to eliminate unpleasant surprises. Avoid it where possible and accept it where the benefits outweigh its drawbacks.

Manage and pay down debt by planning for it, choosing where and when it serves project purposes. This will ensure team momentum, the efficient delivery of products with state-of-the-art functionality, and expand the number of viable solutions to consider for addressing technical debt on projects in the future.

Charles Caldwell is VP of Product Management at Logi Analytics
Share this

The Latest

April 19, 2024

In MEAN TIME TO INSIGHT Episode 5, Shamus McGillicuddy, VP of Research, Network Infrastructure and Operations, at EMA discusses the network source of truth ...

April 18, 2024

A vast majority (89%) of organizations have rapidly expanded their technology in the past few years and three quarters (76%) say it's brought with it increased "chaos" that they have to manage, according to Situation Report 2024: Managing Technology Chaos from Software AG ...

April 17, 2024

In 2024 the number one challenge facing IT teams is a lack of skilled workers, and many are turning to automation as an answer, according to IT Trends: 2024 Industry Report ...

April 16, 2024

Organizations are continuing to embrace multicloud environments and cloud-native architectures to enable rapid transformation and deliver secure innovation. However, despite the speed, scale, and agility enabled by these modern cloud ecosystems, organizations are struggling to manage the explosion of data they create, according to The state of observability 2024: Overcoming complexity through AI-driven analytics and automation strategies, a report from Dynatrace ...

April 15, 2024

Organizations recognize the value of observability, but only 10% of them are actually practicing full observability of their applications and infrastructure. This is among the key findings from the recently completed Logz.io 2024 Observability Pulse Survey and Report ...

April 11, 2024

Businesses must adopt a comprehensive Internet Performance Monitoring (IPM) strategy, says Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), a leading IT analyst research firm. This strategy is crucial to bridge the significant observability gap within today's complex IT infrastructures. The recommendation is particularly timely, given that 99% of enterprises are expanding their use of the Internet as a primary connectivity conduit while facing challenges due to the inefficiency of multiple, disjointed monitoring tools, according to Modern Enterprises Must Boost Observability with Internet Performance Monitoring, a new report from EMA and Catchpoint ...

April 10, 2024

Choosing the right approach is critical with cloud monitoring in hybrid environments. Otherwise, you may drive up costs with features you don’t need and risk diminishing the visibility of your on-premises IT ...

April 09, 2024

Consumers ranked the marketing strategies and missteps that most significantly impact brand trust, which 73% say is their biggest motivator to share first-party data, according to The Rules of the Marketing Game, a 2023 report from Pantheon ...

April 08, 2024

Digital experience monitoring is the practice of monitoring and analyzing the complete digital user journey of your applications, websites, APIs, and other digital services. It involves tracking the performance of your web application from the perspective of the end user, providing detailed insights on user experience, app performance, and customer satisfaction ...

April 04, 2024
Modern organizations race to launch their high-quality cloud applications as soon as possible. On the other hand, time to market also plays an essential role in determining the application's success. However, without effective testing, it's hard to be confident in the final product ...