Sunday, December 1, 2013

We'll Worry About Billing Later - Technical Debt

For years I have been trying to explain this concept to people in business that seem to want results now without fully understanding the costs of now.

Apparently there is a name for it.  I've sarcastically used the phrase "we'll worry about billing later", but it does have an official name -  technical debt - the bias of businesses to cut corners during the development or design phase in order to release a product as quickly as possible by deferring features, spending less time on building in fault tolerance, or perhaps scalability.

I imagine this concept is not germane to software development.  Other business' may in fact place pressure on all parts of their business to take the bread out of the oven before it's baked.  This is not to be mistaken with creating a sense of urgency or releasing a minimally viable product (MVP). Both of those concepts, while concentrating on rapid release, do not advocate omitting necessary components of a product.  Like billing.

Technical debt feels wrong for lot's of reasons. My little voice tells me that when you defer doing it right for the sake of a few weeks of supposed opportunity, the opportunity lost is not greater than the cost of technical debt in most cases.  In other words, any gain you might have achieved (again - in most cases) by releasing products a few weeks or months early, are consumed by the later costs or re-work, enhancements or in other words payment of the technical debt.

My little voice also tells me that software developers, like most skilled workers, take pride in their work, and preventing them from doing their best work is a morale killer.  I'll admit to feeling cheated out of the ability to create a better product the first time and feeling the dread of the inevitable phone call that reminds me that the end of the month is upon us and we need to bill our customers.

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