Last updated on July 8th, 2021 at 01:11 pm
Failure to communicate long-term business strategy can lead to increased technical debt. This happens because engineering decisions that aren’t aligned with business strategy can result in what later becomes technical debt. As business strategy veers away from the assumptions underlying those misaligned engineering decisions, engineers must alter implementations to track the strategy. Technical debt can form during those alteration efforts.
Moreover, the resources that support those alteration efforts might have been unnecessary if senior managers had kept technologists better informed about long-term business strategy. In some cases, the result would have been a reallocation of those resources to other pursuits, including technical debt retirement. To ensure alignment of engineering decisions with long-term business strategy, engineering decision makers must be aware of long-term and intermediate-term enterprise strategy. When they are aware, they can anticipate the engineering needs of the enterprise. And they’re more likely to make decisions that are compatible with strategy.
Strategists can benefit from keeping technologists informedThe effect is bi-directional. Strategists can benefit from understanding the effect their strategies have on technological activity. For example, consider the process of choosing among strategic options. A favorable outcome is more likely if strategists know the effects of each option on the technical debt portfolio.
To gain effective control of technical debt, senior management must regard the technical elements of the enterprise as strategic partners [Woodard 2013] [Ross 2000] [Brenner 2016a]. Policymakers can make important contributions to enhancing communication between strategists and technologists.
For example, when engineers know the general direction of the enterprise, they can focus efforts on assets that are compatible with future needs. Inversely, when they’re unaware of the business strategy, they’re more likely to make decisions that they must later rescind.
What about legacy technical debt retirement?
Analogous considerations apply to legacy technical debt retirement efforts. Major technical debt retirement efforts are often subject to review for alignment with enterprise strategy. But we tend not to review incidental retirement efforts that occur in the context of routine maintenance or development. Consequently, engineers might allocate effort to incidental debt retirement unnecessarily if the asset is due for overhaul or replacement. Communicating long-term strategy effectively is likely the most reliable way to prevent such misspent effort.
Some managers elect to communicate business strategy to technologists only when they “need to know.” Often, technologists needed to know long before that.
[Brenner 2016a] Richard Brenner. “The Psychology and Politics of Technical Debt: How We Incur Technical Debt and Why Retiring It Is So Difficult,” Cutter Business Technology Journal, 29:3, 2016, 21-27.
[Ross 2000] Jeanne W. Ross and David F. Feeny. “The Evolving Role of the CIO,” in Framing the Domains of IS Management Research: Glimpsing the Future through the Past, edited by Robert W. Zmud. Pinnaflex, 2000.
Available: here; Retrieved: December 20, 2017.
- Cultural debt can be the primary driver of technical debt
- Failure to communicate long-term business strategy
[Woodard 2013] C. Jason Woodard, Narayan Ramasubbu, F. Ted Tschang, and V. Sambamurthy. “Design Capital and Design Moves: the Logic of Digital Business Strategy,” MIS Quarterly 37:2, 537-564, 2013.
Other posts in this thread
- Nontechnical precursors of nonstrategic technical debt
- Failure to communicate the technical debt concept
- Technological communication risk
- Team composition volatility
- The Dunning-Kruger effect can lead to technical debt
- Self-sustaining technical knowledge deficits during contract negotiations
- Performance management systems and technical debt
- Zero tolerance and work-to-rule create adversarial cultures
- Stovepiping can lead to technical debt
- Unrealistic definition of done
- Separating responsibility for maintenance and acquisition
- The fundamental attribution error
- Feature bias: unbalanced concern for capability vs. sustainability
- Unrealistic optimism: the planning fallacy and the n-person prisoner’s dilemma
- Confirmation bias and technical debt
- How outsourcing leads to increasing technical debt
- How budget depletion leads to technical debt
- Contract restrictions can lead to technical debt
- Organizational psychopathy: career advancement by surfing the debt tsunami
- The Tragedy of the Commons is a distraction
- The Broken Windows theory of technical debt is broken
- Malfeasance can lead to new technical debt