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Archive for December 2010

Surfing Technical Debt

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The Second Workshop on Managing Technical Debt will be held on May 23, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. It is part of and co-located with the 33rd International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE2011).  Between the workshop and the conference you can rest assured any aspect of software engineering known to mankind will be amply covered.

The workshop is quite unique in its strong emphasis on rigorizing the foundations of technical debt and unifying the ways in which the generic concept is being applied. The reason for so doing is quite straightforward.  The term ‘technical debt’ has, no doubt, proven intuitively compelling. The various intuitive interpretations, however, differ in various subtle nuances. The Overview of the workshop points out:

Yet, it leaves many questions open, such as

  • How do you identify technical debt? What are the different kinds of debt? What are its parameters that help projects elicit, communicate, and manage it?
  • What is the lifetime of technical debt?
  • How is technical debt related to evolution and maintenance activities?
  • How can information about technical debt empirically be collected for developing conceptual models?
  • How do you measure and payoff technical debt? What metrics need to be collected so that key analysis can be conducted?
  • How can technical debt be visualized and analyzed?

As readers of this blog know, I love the combination of intellectual challenge with pragmatic utility that characterizes technical debt. Doing technical debt in Hawaii adds a dimension of pleasure to the mix. The mental image I have for the workshop is ‘Surfing Technical Debt.

On a more prosaic note, the due date for submitting a paper to the workshop is January 21, 2011. Please do not hesitate to contact me or other members of the program committee for any questions you might have on your paper.

Written by israelgat

December 26, 2010 at 9:52 am

Late Night Thoughts on Stepping Into Cutter’s Agile Practice Director Role

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I have just stepped into the role of Director, Cutter’s Agile Product and Project Management Practice. It has been a long time since I felt so honored. Little had I expected that a friendly 2008 email from Brian Robertson suggesting I write an article for Cutter, and a later invite from Jim Highsmith to join the practice would lead to my heading it now.

My preliminary thoughts about evolving the practice are summarized in the Cutter press release. I view Agility as much more than a ‘mere’ software method. I envision the combination of Agile, Cloud, Mobile and Social as transformative in nature. Specifically:

It is not ‘just’ about doing one thing or another a little faster. Rather, it is about enabling new business designs that utilize the ultra-fast pace and flexibility of multiple links in the company’s value chain. [Excerpt from the Cutter press release].

An example of the transformation I foresee is given in my 2011 prediction:

The paramount need to deliver faster/earlier is, for all practical purposes, dictated by today’s markets becoming hyper-segmented. For example, my (or your) Twitter network today is an evolving market segment. My Twitter network in March 2011 could easily be a different segment than the segment it is today. The only way to penetrate such fluid market segments effectively is by following the classic Agile mantra “Release early and often.”

Viewed from such perspective, Agility is more than a strategic initiative. It actually becomes a philosophy of life in the best sense of the word:

The real challenge, however, lies in how to go about solving problems when you don’t understand them well enough to get to a viable solution … when you don’t have a clear enough understanding of the problem to create clear solutions, you have to iterate. [Interview with Russ Daniels]

I will be the first one to admit that I don’t fully understand various facets of what it will take to make the Agile practice most meaningful to current Cutter clients and highly enticing to future prospects. Just as Russ suggests above, I plan to iterate.

And this, in the final analysis, is all that matters in an Agile practice.

Written by israelgat

December 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm

SPaMCAST 112 – Israel Gat, Technical Debt

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Click here for my just published interview on Technical Debt. Major themes discussed in the interview are as follows:

  • The nature of technical debt
  • Tactical and strategic effects of technical debt
  • How the technical debt metric enables you to communicate across levels and functions
  • What Toxic Code is and how it is related to Net Present Value
  • The atrocious nature of code with a high Error Feedback Ratio
  • Cyclomatic complexity as a predictor of error-proneness
  • Use of heat maps in reducing technical debt
  • Use of density of technical debt as a risk indicator
  • How and when to use technical debt to ‘stop-the-line’
  • Use of technical debt in governing software

To illuminate various subtle aspects of technical debt, I use the following metaphors in the interview:

  • The rusty automobiles metaphor
  • The universal source of truth metaphor
  • The Russian dolls metaphor
  • The mine field metaphor
  • The weight reduction metaphor
  • The teeth flossing metaphor

Between the themes and the metaphors, the interview combines theory with pragmatic advice for both the technical and the non-technical listener.