Once a month I feel like a rich man. On the day I get paid, my bank balance shows the fruits of my efforts in all their glory. This lasts a day or 2 until some bugger comes and swipes the lot!
In reality, I am actually poor. Like most people I have a huge debt in the mortgage on the house that keeps me warm and dry. This is a well-managed debt, lasting years that I nibble away at each month.
If I were to treat my finances like a business on an extensive balance sheet then I would make my true financial situation visible. It would make me sad obviously, but if I want to know my true position then this is what I should do.
A POs responsibility does not lie solely in serving the customer. They must also align the customer’s requirements with their company’s vision. These are 2 perspectives but the developers give you a 3rd which is equally important – they can tell you about all the things you CANNOT see and yet still affect your product.
Many POs I have worked with insist that the backlog should not have any stories that describe technical debt since they have no value. I would ask you to consider that the backlog is better seen as a balance sheet – it forecasts the future worth of your product.
So if we treat the backlog as a balance sheet, we can start to attribute the losses of not addressing technical debt against the gains of new features. It is actually the combination of these that describe the true position of your product and its ability to continue making you money.
Our technical debts are ever increasing – this is either an active process which we decide on or a passive process through neglect. Just like a mortgage, there is maximum we can afford based on our resources – we cannot keep increasing our mortgage forever.
If we don’t carefully managing our debt we might have to take out a more expensive loan to cover the costs over a shorter term. At worst, this could be one of those payday loans because we exhausted our credit with all other lenders who rely on us being sensible in order to do business with us.
Technical debt provides balance to your backlog. Viewing your debt alongside your credit allows you to make more informed decisions about what to invest in and when.