Convince agile product owners to prioritize technical debt –

The agile development team may have a hard time dealing with technical debt. This is not the case if you’re working on a ground floor startup using a cloud-native microservices architecture designed over the last few years. The rest of us have technical debt built into our applications, services, databases, and infrastructure, to the extent of size, risk, complexity, and business impact.
Technical debt Prevent teams from developing new features, improving the customer experience, addressing security issues, improving reliability, improving performance, automating workflows, and addressing other business priorities.
Definition and importance of Technical debt change. At the bottom, it could be a small area of ​​code that needs to be refactored, a library that needs to be upgraded, or a unit test that needs to be fixed. At the high end, technical debt includes reengineering complex monolithic applications, porting older web service protocols, integrating multiple platforms into one standard, and cleansing. Data debt Update issues, infrastructure, implement observability practices, or automate backlogs of manual test cases.The worst type of technical debt is Combustion platform There will be repeated outages and incidents that affect your business.
My simple definition of technical debt is that the technology running in production can modify, refactor, modernize, upgrade, reengineer, or replace strategic business requirements before or as part of their implementation. If you need it.
This is a challenge faced by agile and scrum teams who want to deal with technical debt.There are many approaches to how organizations adopt agile, but most of the time Agile technique Product owners should be responsible for prioritizing the backlog based on the needs of customers and stakeholders.
In the best scenario, the product owner listens, learns, asks, and collaborates with the technical team to deal with technical debt. To ensure that technical debt is prioritized, the product management group (including product managers and owners) considers the technician as a delivery partner and as a stakeholder in the work ranked high in the backlog. need to do it.
Many product managers and owners are under tremendous pressure from customers, business leaders, and stakeholders who demand that features and business features be prioritized. They are hesitant to consistently focus on technical improvements as they seek faster ways to deliver business outcomes, improve customer satisfaction and appease tough business stakeholders. There is likely to be. In my experience, another challenge is that some product owners do not work well with the technology team. They are often the worst offenders of underinvestment to deal with technical debt.
What should agile teams and DevOps organizations do to build joint partnerships between agile product managers and owners regarding technical debt? I asked three experienced product owners for their insights and recommendations.
Soumeya Benghanem, Product Management Leader VMware,host Product week Learn about Clubhouse product management and discuss difficult product manager decisions about defining priorities, responding to customer needs, and improving technical capabilities. We co-sponsored a discussion on technical debt and she shared these insights.
Benganem said: “Look at the high-priority results and all the important factors and think about the impact on the business. Often there are technical debts that are consistent with these results. A better approach for product owners is technology. Work closely with your team to understand the impact on technology design and prioritize your technical debt efforts. Addressing technical debt can improve business outcomes and speed up your business. , Improves team morale, increases team retention, and increases consistency with values. “
If your team is only thinking about releasing features and improving features, it’s hard to worry about technical debt. When an agile team targets business outcomes, it leads to discussions about whether new features, reliability upgrades, increased security, new automation, additional testing, or other improvements are in line with the strategy.
It’s not just business outcomes that matter. Agile teams also need to discuss and disclose that principle. Benganem proposes principles such as improving team morale and speed.
Suppose you have an unsupported code module, a manual deployment process, or an error-prone data service. In these cases, the additional effort and stress of working in these areas of technology should help justify prioritizing modifications based on agreed principles.
Benganem also warns against targeting only large technical debt rocks that hinder the building of features and the improvement of the experience. “There is a perception that only the technical debt of’blockers’ is worth tackling, and in my opinion it is an unhealthy attitude, especially in the early stages of a technical solution,” she says.
Teams need to define agile principles and associated metrics to help justify and prioritize areas that need maintenance and improvement. Otherwise, the small and corrupt areas of the technological foundation can lead to longer-term structural problems. Increasing test coverage, addressing data quality, documenting the architecture, and improving observability are examples of non-blocking improvements that require continuous enhancement.
Marc Albert, Newyork-based Product Director and Associate Partner McKinsey & CompanyEncourage the development team to describe ongoing enhancements in business terms. Specifically, he states: Building a discussion about how to profit from your investment now, not later, even for user experience, client delivery, product economics, and even comprehensive value propositions, is more than impacting prioritization. It’s an effective method. “
Unfortunately, aligning business outcomes with agile principles is only possible when building technical debt priorities. In some cases, some modifications may be required over time to achieve business outcomes. Product managers can also lose the patience to invest in gradual technological enhancements.
Group Product Manager, Steve Chiou boxThe product manager and his team need to build trust and discuss trade-offs. His conclusion is as follows. “As a product manager, do you trust when the technical manager says you need this technical debt? If the answer is no, then there is a fundamental problem within the team. A good product team includes trust among product managers, engineers, and designers. If not, it is your responsibility to understand and correct the reason. It must be a partnership with give and take in all situations. “
Trust means that technical leaders and development teams must take responsibility that product managers are familiar with. The technical team needs to deal with technical debt. Going to a product manager with a one-mile backlog of technical debt problems is as bad as working with demanding stakeholders with dozens of essential feature priorities.
Product managers are more likely to help improve their technical debt as they see their technical team prioritize, define issues in business terms, and create meaningful agile principles.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.
Convince agile product owners to prioritize technical debt
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