Ken Power. Understanding the Impact of Technical Debt on the Capacity and Velocity of Teams and Organizations

Time is of course a very important recourse in software engineering teams and deciding what to do with the developer time there is is a though decision. Ken Power found that just focusing on features was not enough, as sometimes teams were quicker and it was unclear why that happened.

Therefore, at Cisco, they started to tag stories they were working on, with tags like ‘technical debt’, ‘feature’ or ‘test’ With this analysis, they could see that only 55% was spent on features. The remaining 45% was spend on improving the code base and adding tests.

They also monitored planned versus unplanned technical debt. Planned is where the is an item in the backlog that they planned to work on, and unplanned are items that developers run into and decide to work on then. They plan a certain percentage of time for these unplanned items.

Most  important result of this tagging is also became easy to visualize the impact of technical debt on the velocity of the teams and to make better decision on when to work on technical debt.