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Technical & Product
Debt Management
By Dr. Sergey Sundukovskiy
Introduction
Sergey
Sundukovskiy,
Ph.D.
Head of Engineering - Technology
Innovation at Capital One
Current: Capital One, Google, 500 Startups
Previous: Launchpad LA, PushPoint, LivnGiv
“… A design or construction approach that is expedient in the short
term but that creates a technical context in which the same work will
cost more to do later than it would cost to do now (including
increased cost over time).”
3
Debt
Everything You Want to Do “Later” Is DEBT
• Let’s Document Later
• Let’s Test Later
• Let’s Architect Later
• Let’s Refactor Later
4
Debt
Technical Debt Results
Product
Debt
Things SLOW DOWN
• All Debt Is Bad
• No Debt Is Great
• Taking On Debt Always Gets You There Faster
6
Debt Misconceptions
Technical Debt Story
I Have Not Seen Organs Like These
CEOs Tale
• We were very productive
• We kicked ass
• We became complacent
• I fired them all
• I hired a new team
• They are not productive either
• Must have chosen wrong
• I fired them all
• SAVE ME
8
Common Story
CTOs Tale
• We were very productive through debt accumulation
• We kicked ass but burned out
• We slowed down due to increasing debt support
• We got fired
• New team got hired
• It does not know where skeletons are buried
• We got fired as well
• I have Not Seen Organs Like These
9
Common Story
Support Cost is a Euphemism for Debt
Support
(15%)
Innovation
(85%)
Support
(50%)
Innovation
(50%)
Support
(85%)
Innovation
(15%)
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Support to Innovation Ratio
Leveraging Debt
Continued
• Time to Market – If taking on debt gets you to market disproportionately
faster
• Time to Contact – If strategic contract is at stake debt might be worth it
• Time to Funding – If funding is at stake debt might be worth it
• Time to Survival – Debt is irrelevant if there is no tomorrow
Leveraging Debt
• Non-Leveragable Debt
• Debt Due to Ignorance
• Debt Due to Laziness
Unacceptable Debt
Technical Debt Survey
Technical Debt Elements
• Lack of Architectural Blueprint
• Lack of Unit Testing
• Lack of Integration Testing
• Lack of Code Reviews
• Lack of Starter Platform
• Lack of Starter Framework
• Lack of Technical Design
• Lack of Development Recipes
How Did We Let It Happen?
One Logical Step at a Time
Broken Window Theory
One Broken Window Leads to Ruin
Broken Window Theory
Do Sweat the Small Stuff
Small Vandalism
Urban Decay
CRIME
Debt Tipping Point
Product Death
Year 2
Year 1
Tipping Point
Debt Creeps Up on You
Yup, It is Kind of Like That
No Turning Back Now!
The Snowball Effect
SPLAT!
Debt Management
Regular, Slow and Steady Does It
Technical Debt Management
Technology Debt Management and Debt Avoidance
• Build on Top of IaaS/PaaS
• Build on Top of Starter Product/Starter Framework
• Implement Unit/Integration/Functional Testing
• Conduct Code Review
• Implement CI/CD/CD
• Establish Short Sprints (Agile) or No Sprints (Kanban)
• Non-Monolithic Design
Product Debt
Yup, That’s Feature Creep
Featuritis Curve
Number of Features
UserHappiness
Happy User Peak
“I rule!”
“Cool!”
“I’m so glad they added
this.”
“Nice, but I wish I
could do more…”
“Guess I better look
at the manual…”
“Hey, where the f***
did they put that?!”
“Now I can’t even do the ONE
SIMPLE THING I bought this
for…”
“I suck!”
Features Usage
What is Product Debt?
Product Debt = Product Complexity =
User Confusion
Multiplicative Complexity
N(N-1)/2 – Undirected Graph
N(N-1) – Directed Graph
Ease of Use
Main Feature = Easy to Use
Irreducible Complexity
Simplest Mousetrap
Product Feature Attributes
Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Concepts
• Aim For Adjacent Possible
Irreducible Complexity
• Can’t Take Anything Away
• Can’t Be Simpler
Simplest for What It Does
• Simple Path to Intent
31
Path to Intent
Straightforward Path to Intent
Feature Payments
Feature Currency
• Confusion “Payment” for Features
What Do They Mean?
• “This Is Confusing”
Ideal Feature
• Minimal Confusion
• Minimal Multiplicative Complexity
33
Features
Confusion
Ideal Balance
Realistic Balance
Feature Payments
• Do Not Complicate Things
• Do Not Make Users Think
• Do Not Make Users Work
• Do Not Defy User’s Expectations
• Do Not Confuse Yourself With Users
• Do Not Assume You Know Everything
34
Product Debt Don’ts
35
Always Be Testing
36
Painted Door
Painted Door vs. Real Door
Product Debt Management and Debt Avoidance
• 30% of the Sprint Should Be Devoted to Feature Removal
• Test Before You Implement
• Collect User Feedback
• Measure and Correlate Churn
• Assess Complexity and Confusion
37
Product Debt Management
Not The Same Thing
Management
Mitigation
39
Selling Debt Mitigation
Debt Mitigation Is Very Hard To Sell
• Cause and effect is not immediately apparent
• ROI is very difficult to quantify
• Definition of done is hard to come up with
• Perpetual projects are not crowd pleasers
• Users are not even aware that backend of apps even
exists. UX/UI in user’s mind is the app itself
40
Debt Mitigation Advice
If You Can Help It, Do Not Sell It
• Schedule feature holidays (every 5th release)
• Refactor as you go
• Make debt mitigation as part of the process
• Give estimates considering debt mitigation
• Invite outside experts
If You Must Sell It
• Tell CEO/CTO story
• Use aircraft maintenance strategy
41
Debt Mitigation Advice
Continued

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Technical & Product Debt Management

  • 1. Technical & Product Debt Management By Dr. Sergey Sundukovskiy
  • 2. Introduction Sergey Sundukovskiy, Ph.D. Head of Engineering - Technology Innovation at Capital One Current: Capital One, Google, 500 Startups Previous: Launchpad LA, PushPoint, LivnGiv
  • 3. “… A design or construction approach that is expedient in the short term but that creates a technical context in which the same work will cost more to do later than it would cost to do now (including increased cost over time).” 3 Debt
  • 4. Everything You Want to Do “Later” Is DEBT • Let’s Document Later • Let’s Test Later • Let’s Architect Later • Let’s Refactor Later 4 Debt
  • 6. • All Debt Is Bad • No Debt Is Great • Taking On Debt Always Gets You There Faster 6 Debt Misconceptions
  • 7. Technical Debt Story I Have Not Seen Organs Like These
  • 8. CEOs Tale • We were very productive • We kicked ass • We became complacent • I fired them all • I hired a new team • They are not productive either • Must have chosen wrong • I fired them all • SAVE ME 8 Common Story
  • 9. CTOs Tale • We were very productive through debt accumulation • We kicked ass but burned out • We slowed down due to increasing debt support • We got fired • New team got hired • It does not know where skeletons are buried • We got fired as well • I have Not Seen Organs Like These 9 Common Story
  • 10. Support Cost is a Euphemism for Debt Support (15%) Innovation (85%) Support (50%) Innovation (50%) Support (85%) Innovation (15%) Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Support to Innovation Ratio
  • 12. • Time to Market – If taking on debt gets you to market disproportionately faster • Time to Contact – If strategic contract is at stake debt might be worth it • Time to Funding – If funding is at stake debt might be worth it • Time to Survival – Debt is irrelevant if there is no tomorrow Leveraging Debt
  • 13. • Non-Leveragable Debt • Debt Due to Ignorance • Debt Due to Laziness Unacceptable Debt
  • 15. Technical Debt Elements • Lack of Architectural Blueprint • Lack of Unit Testing • Lack of Integration Testing • Lack of Code Reviews • Lack of Starter Platform • Lack of Starter Framework • Lack of Technical Design • Lack of Development Recipes
  • 16. How Did We Let It Happen? One Logical Step at a Time
  • 17. Broken Window Theory One Broken Window Leads to Ruin
  • 18. Broken Window Theory Do Sweat the Small Stuff Small Vandalism Urban Decay CRIME
  • 19. Debt Tipping Point Product Death Year 2 Year 1 Tipping Point
  • 20. Debt Creeps Up on You Yup, It is Kind of Like That No Turning Back Now! The Snowball Effect SPLAT!
  • 21. Debt Management Regular, Slow and Steady Does It
  • 22. Technical Debt Management Technology Debt Management and Debt Avoidance • Build on Top of IaaS/PaaS • Build on Top of Starter Product/Starter Framework • Implement Unit/Integration/Functional Testing • Conduct Code Review • Implement CI/CD/CD • Establish Short Sprints (Agile) or No Sprints (Kanban) • Non-Monolithic Design
  • 23. Product Debt Yup, That’s Feature Creep
  • 24. Featuritis Curve Number of Features UserHappiness Happy User Peak “I rule!” “Cool!” “I’m so glad they added this.” “Nice, but I wish I could do more…” “Guess I better look at the manual…” “Hey, where the f*** did they put that?!” “Now I can’t even do the ONE SIMPLE THING I bought this for…” “I suck!”
  • 26. What is Product Debt? Product Debt = Product Complexity = User Confusion
  • 27. Multiplicative Complexity N(N-1)/2 – Undirected Graph N(N-1) – Directed Graph
  • 28. Ease of Use Main Feature = Easy to Use
  • 30. Product Feature Attributes Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Concepts • Aim For Adjacent Possible Irreducible Complexity • Can’t Take Anything Away • Can’t Be Simpler Simplest for What It Does • Simple Path to Intent
  • 32. Feature Payments Feature Currency • Confusion “Payment” for Features What Do They Mean? • “This Is Confusing” Ideal Feature • Minimal Confusion • Minimal Multiplicative Complexity
  • 34. • Do Not Complicate Things • Do Not Make Users Think • Do Not Make Users Work • Do Not Defy User’s Expectations • Do Not Confuse Yourself With Users • Do Not Assume You Know Everything 34 Product Debt Don’ts
  • 37. Product Debt Management and Debt Avoidance • 30% of the Sprint Should Be Devoted to Feature Removal • Test Before You Implement • Collect User Feedback • Measure and Correlate Churn • Assess Complexity and Confusion 37 Product Debt Management
  • 38. Not The Same Thing Management Mitigation
  • 40. Debt Mitigation Is Very Hard To Sell • Cause and effect is not immediately apparent • ROI is very difficult to quantify • Definition of done is hard to come up with • Perpetual projects are not crowd pleasers • Users are not even aware that backend of apps even exists. UX/UI in user’s mind is the app itself 40 Debt Mitigation Advice
  • 41. If You Can Help It, Do Not Sell It • Schedule feature holidays (every 5th release) • Refactor as you go • Make debt mitigation as part of the process • Give estimates considering debt mitigation • Invite outside experts If You Must Sell It • Tell CEO/CTO story • Use aircraft maintenance strategy 41 Debt Mitigation Advice Continued