The Valley of Debt
Technical debt is a very common phenomenon; in fact it occurs with virtually every line of code whether you want it or not. Although unoptimized coding due to the rush presented by management pressure may be one of the major reasons for technical debt, it occurs in various flavors based on the nature of execution. Sometimes, even the best written code may run into debt by introducing a minimalistic change in the business definitions, e.g.: a variable name that makes no sense anymore.
This debt cause and effect is exponentiated when scaled teams come into play. In many cases these teams are distributed and an optimized code for one team may become a debt for another. These debt dependencies between teams is what creates the "Valley of Debt". Unfortunately these cannot be avoided but good engineering practices coupled with lean principles may keep them confined for long enough in order to push the validity of software applications.
Sooner or later, the cost of change will outweigh the benefit of an application and turn it into legacy; the challenge is to keep it as far as possible by slowing down the fall into the valley of debt. In this (non-PPT) interactive workshop, we will witness first hand how debts are introduced and how these can be confined by utilizing good engineering practices coupled with lean principles.
Outline/structure of the Session
The session involves scaled teams moving and interacting with each other in order to deliver. It is not suitable for participants if:
- The participant is wearing high heels or foot wear that can hurt others
- The participant is pregnant
- The participant has had a recent surgery or is unfit for performing physical movements
- The participant is expecting a PowerPoint presentation and doesn't wish to have fun while learning
The session is divided into 5 short iterations that address:
- Enthusiastic developers adding technical debt under management pressure
- Principles to tackle management pressure and refactor to remove technical debt
- Understanding what is legacy code and good practices to avoid it
- Bringing it all together and finding synergy with continuous delivery
- Repeating 4 just for revision and a little more fun
The workshop is ideal for after lunch, wake-up & learn session
This simulation is built around individuals part of scaled teams and working towards a common product. The teams are responsible for running parallel iterations of 2 minutes each, while working on the same product. There's a role play involved where I play a demanding manager who pushes the team towards delivering more and more.
After the first iteration we evaluate how a demanding management can burden a developer to inject technical debts. We introduce these technical debts as obstacles for our teams; we also clarify what defines a technical debt and various sources for introducing it. After providing anecdotes for removing tech debts (e.g. refactoring) we move on with the next iteration.
The second iteration works towards implementing the learnings from the first one as we remove the tech debt after each delivery, but obviously add new ones as we move along. The demanding management still pushes the team which possibly adds more debts than engineering practices can reduce. The evaluation works towards the agile principle to work at a sustainable pace indefinitely and this is where we discuss the meaning of legacy systems or when does a system become legacy.
The third iteration works towards maintaining a sustainable pace and engineering practices to defer the evolution of a legacy system. But this is where we introduce the possibility of syncing release cycles between multiple teams and making sure that early feedback is possible. The evaluation points towards CI/CD and shorter releases which we incorporate in our simulation for the fourth iteration.
The final iteration is more of bringing things together as a formal revision to avoid the valley of debt and elongating the life of one's system from becoming legacy. Followed by Q&A.
- The nature & reasons for debt
- Engineering practices to confine debt
- Lean implementations for management
- Interactions within scaled teams
- Combining the above for longevity
Software Engineers delivering value and Managers / Leaders demanding value
schedule Submitted 7 months ago
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