The IT Pro Podcast: Coping with technical debt
Taking engineering shortcuts can be a path to future headaches - but it doesn't always have to be
Technical debt is one of the most dreaded concepts in enterprise IT; CIOs constantly struggle to stay on top of their technical debt and prevent it from accumulating out of control, and the knowledge that all of your shortcuts are going to catch up with you at some point is enough to keep any engineer awake at night.
However, technical debt doesn’t always have to be bad, and there are ways for organisations to manage its growth in a sustainable way. This week, we’re joined by Fastly’s chief product architect Sean Leach to explore why technical debt is so feared, the potential impact it can have, and even how organisations can use it to their advantage.
“If you look across the board in the IT world, there's too few people working on too many projects with not enough time. And sometimes the bosses don't care about all those things, they just want it done. And so in some ways, they're forced to take on some technical debt to get their projects done on time and keep their jobs and to keep their livelihood and whatnot. So unfortunately, it is something that is a reality in the IT space.
I think sometimes people look at technical debt as all bad. And our founder, Artur Bergman, used to use this great line about technical debt that he would somewhat look at it like financial debt: sometimes you go into financial debt to finance your growth, to finance your expansion. And so it's not always a negative thing for an organisation, especially if you're trying to move fast, ship products, get the business off the ground and successful - you just know that you're going to have to take some on early, and then prepare to pay it down later.”
“I think sometimes people think of certain things as technical debt, which aren't technical debt. I think sometimes people think, ‘okay, I built this system in a not new and hip language and environment. I didn't build it with React with a Node backend or something like that. I had to build it in Java or C# or Go’, they think, ‘oh, that's technical debt’. But in reality, that tech is the most stable and should actually lower their stress over time. They're not having to keep up to date with the latest tech and trends... That is not technical debt. To me, that's actually smart engineering.”
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