I wrote a blog about the term Technical Debt being 25 years old recently
The term “Technical Debt” is 25 yrs old
The original concept of Technical Debt is also very out of date.
The follow up comments with Declan Keyes-Bevan made me really think about the term. He started talking about “Technical Investment” and that got me thinking.
In the finance world, Credit is something that is given. You essentially ask someone for an amount of money, and they give it to you, and require you to pay it back by a given point in the future usually with interest.
That’s how Credit Cards work. You have the ability to get your hands on an amount of money up to a limit (£1k, £5k etc) and agree to pay interest on any amount you borrow at a specific rate.
Technical debt in the original context was what happened when you made technical trade offs.
You built up technical debt by taking shortcuts. Fixing those shortcuts was something that would be “in the future”, and that fix would cost time/money.
Except that doesn’t happen now. We build prototypes and proofs of concept, that then go into production (sometimes with a “beta” label) and call them an MVP.
And we never really have a need to identify “Technical Debt” in the same way. Sometimes we see the whole of the initial version as “throwaway” code. You rebuild the entire thing over time often without a real downside.
The biggest problem is often scale. Certainly with web systems, the scaling is the biggest issue over time, and maybe there is a scaling technical debt (this can often be the case with startups that go big very fast).
But for most startups, it’s more like Credit.
As Declan Keyes-Bevan states in one of his comments, a proof of concept was put into production and generated
millions in revenue and created 15 jobs for 12 months
In that sense, the initial development was much more like Credit.
A good use of borrowed resources, that generates a positive return.
The Technical Return on Investment of the line of Technical Credit was obvious.
I mean, it’s still debt that’s built up, but it’s not debt in the same way.
And as with startups, if you invest your credit badly, it can become a Technical Debt that needs repaying.
But it’s not Debt straight away.
And maybe the idea of Technical Debt isn’t quite right.
Maybe we should call it Technical Credit.