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How to Pay Down Technical Debt with an Agile Approach

Jan 14, 2020 5:05:00 PM

Technical debt is a silent killer in many organizations today. A common misconception is that technical debt can be found in software bugs. While having bugs in your software is definitely one example of technical debt (and could be the most expensive), it is not the only one. Other technical debt comes in the form of work that was never completely finished, old code that is still in use, or even the systems and tools being used in the organization. These could have stemmed from taking short cuts or not delivering what was promised and then getting lost in the backlog. Whatever technical debt your organization owes, it is best to identify it as soon as possible and begin to pay it back before it is too late. 

Understanding Agility

Over time, productivity begins to give way to backtracking and putting out small fires. This causes deadlines to be missed or delayed, which again can lead to more shortcuts, patches, and workarounds. This causes the snowball of technical debt to continue to build momentum, which increases the concern for security threats. Anytime these shortcuts are made, there are crucial steps in the work process that are missed; one of those being documentation. Keep in mind - The less technical debt your organization has, the more agile they will be. Being more agile allows team members the ability to dedicate time to the items that are most important. 

Importance of Documentation

Documenting each step in your process and the work that was done, or not done, is extremely important in any organization. It's common for work to get done quickly and often not finished all in one sitting. For that reason, it is extremely important to not miss documenting all details of your work. Each step in the process should be described in enough thorough detail so that you or anyone else can pick up right where you left off. Having to go back and figure out what was done is not only frustrating but causes a decrease in productivity and additional missed deadlines.

Agile Approach with Jira

Paying down your technical debt can be better managed while taking an Agile approach using Jira software. One of the first and most important steps when beginning to pay down technical debt is to identify and bring transparency to it. Jira can be leveraged to shine that light on your current debt and give greater control over who this debt belongs to. Setting up your dashboards but using the power of the filters and the gadgets provided through Jira can help immensely. The average age chart and the pie chart are some of the most frequently used filters and gadgets. These help show all of the issues that have not been addressed over a period of time, which lead to an ever growing backlog. 

How to Pay Down Technical Debt

The road to paying down your technical debt can be a long one for many organizations and can be bumpy at times. However, it can be one of the most liberating and impactful undertakings your organization can take on. It's important to note that avoiding technical debt is not always realistic; however, it is crucial that it is controlled and kept from spiraling out of control. If you need help identifying technical debt in your organization or interested in learning how to configure Jira for more transparency, check out an old (but relevant) webinar Agile Best Practices with the Atlassian Toolset. Of course, you can always contact us to give you a hand. 

Written by Chris Hofbauer

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