How to turn technical debt into an asset
All projects generate technical debt. A project manager’s quest should not be zero debt, but rather its regulation and transformation into an asset.
Technical debt can appear at every project step. When starting a project, you are eager as the project manager to show immediate results. Therefore, you will be more lenient with good practices. When a major milestone draws close, you’ll be once again more permissive in order to meet the deadline. Such behaviour is perfectly normal; you should give flexibility to your team under extreme circumstances. The challenge is the monitoring and control of the technical debt’s evolution.
Using a tool such as SonarQube will give a clear overview of your project’s state and are key in managing technical debt. Once an acceptable level of debt has been determined, regularly monitoring dashboards will give a tangible view of the situation and enable to make appropriate changes. Expect technical debt to be higher during critical periods: if this is the case, plan corrective actions once the situation is back to normal. If your technical debt rises without obvious reasons, you’ll need to reinforce the importance of quality to the team or conduct further investigation to understand what part of the code is responsible for the increase.
Once you’ve accepted the unavoidability of technical debt, instead of considering it as a burden, its control will be a way to optimize resources at key moments in the project lifecycle. Ignoring it has unquestionable advantages in the short term. But as with any debt, you will have to pay it back at some point, so make sure you keep repaying!