Technical Debt: A Management Problem That Requires a Management Solution

The primary cause of technical debt in your organization is very likely your managers – not your developers nor your architects. The management desire to be “on time and on budget” often motivates deployment of poor-quality assets and rarely leaves room for investment in long-term quality.  Although technical professionals may readily realize this problem, managers often do not, or if they do they don’t view technical debt as a priority.  It is time for a change.

This presentation explores the root causes of technical debt within organizations, many of which trace back to the project management mindset and the strategies that result from it. Just like the technical challenges of addressing technical debt must be addressed by technical solutions, the management challenges of technical debt must be addressed by management solutions. We work through how to make leadership aware of technical debt and its implications, how to evolve your management practices to avoid and address technical debt, and enterprise-level strategies to embed technical debt thinking and behaviours into your culture.  Results from industry research will be shared throughout.

What You’ll Learn About Technical Debt

    1. What is technical debt?
    2. What are the causes of technical debt?
    3. How do management behaviours affect technical debt?
    4. How do we talk about technical debt to leadership?
    5. What mindset shifts need to occur to properly address technical debt?
    6. How can management behaviour change so as to reduce and avoid technical debt while still achieving their other outcomes?

Audience For This Presentation

    • Experienced practitioners who want to learn how to talk to management about technical debt
    • Managers who want to understand the root causes of technical debt and how to address them
    • Leaders who want to learn strategies to address technical debt

Why You Want To Hear About Technical Debt From Me

I have worked in the information technology (IT) space since the late 1980s, taking on roles from programmer to architect to process engineer to executive.  Over the years I’ve focused on ways of working (WoW), in particular focusing on context and impact of a wide range of WoW.  I was also a technical executive at IBM Rational for six years and a VP at Project Management Institute (PMI) for three years. In this presentation I connect common management practices to their impact on technical debt.  I provide strategies to describe technical debt, its impact, and solutions to leadership. Most importantly, I work through how to embed technical debt thinking and practices throughout your WoW.

Presentation History

Since 2015 I have given this presentation at several software development conferences, to several PMI Chapters, and to several agile/lean user groups.

Scott Ambler is an international keynote speaker