All of us know about monetary debt and how it can hurt us. But what about technical debt?

Let’s say you need to catch a flight. There are two ways you can make it on time:

a) Leave home well in advance, keeping some buffer time for the unpredictable traffic.

b) Leave home a little late and trust that a shortcut on the way will help you reach the airport on time.

Taking the second option is fraught with risks. What if everyone has discovered the shortcut and even that route is jammed? On a really good day, the shortcut might save you time but you can’t count on it. On the other hand, leaving home well in advance will ensure that you catch your flight, even if the traffic plays up and causes a slight delay.

A similar scenario plays out when planning a project.

A plan is made, budgets fixed, resources allocated. But the project manager decides to take a shortcut – like release an app on a set deadline without completing the process of checking for bugs. Everything goes haywire and meeting the deadline becomes redundant since now, a lot of work needs to go into rectifying the bugs. The shortcut paid no dividends. In fact, it caused more problems.

At its most basic, technical debt is a shortcut that results in more work later as the optimal route was overlooked in favour of the easy one. This can happen due to pressure, oversight or just indifference.

Project managers are encouraged to avoid technical debt for the simple reason that it involves doubling the work, which increase both cost and time in the long run.

Just like taking a short cut and still missing a flight.

Let’s begin by becoming aware of the types of technical debt:

  1. Debt caused by lack of knowledge

This is most likely to occur with junior-level team members who make poor decisions as they might not be aware of best practices and guidelines.

2 . Debt that is unavoidable

This can arise when a client requests a scope change in the middle of the project, or when there is an upgrade to old tools/software that brings a better way of doing things.

3 . Strategic debt

This is usually intentional and is taken on by first determining the financial cost of the technical debt and getting approval from project stakeholders. For example, deciding that a product must be shipped and the consequences be dealt with later.

Here are some common causes of Technical Debt:

  • Lack of planning
  • Ignorance
  • Inadequate documentation
  • Neglect of industry standards
  • Lack of collaboration

Technical debt originated in the field of software development, but it is a hurdle that every project manager from any field will encounter. Which means that it’s something they need to prepare for and not leave to chance.

A realistic project plan takes into account the impact of technical debt.

While an effective project plan sets aside time to specifically address technical debt.

So, project managers, remember to build technical debt into your timelines and delivery dates. Have your team track technical debt just like they track their tasks. Then ensure that you choose the right project management tool that helps them collaborate, track and report on it correctly. See how Gantter can help you identify, track, and minimize technical debt with our Free 30-day Trial!

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