The wall of technical debt

A method to make technical debt visible and negotiable:

  • Use a physical wall to visualize your tech debt on sticky notes. It is easy to start and maintain, yet it can usefully impact choices that add, payback or ignore the technical debt. Pick a central location with high visibility. Make the display dramatic.
  • Decide on some sort of tally mark to represent costs (time or money), so it is not a matter of opinion only. Conversely, if it does not have a cost but only looks awkward, don’t log it as debt.
  • Build a working habit and stay honest
  • Keep your notes short but easy to understand - what made code difficult to understand, what slowed it down, why a bug was hard to find, what should have been better documented or tested. Estimate the opportunity cost as well as time to fix the issues. If your team is using an issue tracker, add the ID to the sticky notes.
  • Negotiate tradeoffs based on this visualization. Discuss as a team whenever someone needs to add a note or time notation whether it is faster or cheaper to fix the debt. If it is, fix it right there and then. If not, add it to the wall. Give away control to managers to decide what to focus on.
  • Beware of starting with a complete debt audit - it can become its own bottleneck as it calls for buy-in and tends to get put off indefinitely.

Full post here, 7 mins read