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Technical Debt for PMs

Time is of the essence for any project team member or manager. More often than they would like to, they are forced to cut corners in the name of saving time and meeting deadlines. If you are unaware, the name given to the problems that arise from cutting corners and rushing work is known as Technical Debt, a term originally coined by Ward Cunningham. In an article from Scrum Alliance, originally published at ProjectsAtWork, we learn that what we put off or speed through now could come back to bite us later: Consider this hypothetical scenario. Bill the PM has a strong track record of successfully delivering on promised schedules or features. In order to make this happen under pressure, Bill’s team has neglected the code base to the point where only certain people understand parts of the code. The code base is so convoluted and difficult to understand that few new recruits are willing to work on it. Worse still, adding new features takes longer and longer as time passes. Bill has seemingly won schedule-related battles; however, the product has slowly deteriorated and the war is nearly (and surprisingly) lost. The article goes on to note that, in this new world of Agile methods, quality of deliverables often loses out to time because there ends up being only one or two people responsible for a certain part of the project. This means that these one or two people are concerned with being the “single wring-able neck”, so they are willing to cut corners so they look as if they are able to compete more quickly than someone else. Remember, it may sound wonderful to have a project completed quickly, but not if you have to deal with greater consequences down the line. The article reminds us that it is the responsibility of the project manager to ask questions and find out how well technical affairs are running. In other words, the project manager needs to notice if corners are continuously being cut. If they are, it is time to take action to avoid adding to the already harmful Technical Debt.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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