In their haste to deliver software capabilities, developers sometimes engage in less-than-optimal coding practices. If not addressed, these shortcuts can ultimately yield unexpected rework costs that offset the benefits of rapid delivery. Technical debt conceptualizes the tradeoff between the short-term benefits of rapid delivery and long-term value. Taking shortcuts to expedite the delivery of features in the short term incurs technical debt, analogous to financial debt, that must be paid off later to optimize long-term success. Managing technical debt is an increasingly critical aspect of producing cost-effective, timely, and high-quality software products, especially in projects that apply agile methods.
A delicate balance is needed between the desire to release new software features rapidly to satisfy users and the desire to practice sound software engineering that reduces rework. Too often, however, technical debt focuses on coding issues when a broader perspective—one that incorporates software architectural concerns—is needed. In this podcast, Dr. Neil Ernst discusses the findings of a recent field study to assess the state of the practice and current thinking regarding technical debt and guide the development of a technical debt timeline.