Technical Debt and Prioritization


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This week Product School #1 Slack’s community for Product Managers discussed issues regarding technical debt when it comes to prioritization. Check it out!

hey guys, I feel like all the common prioritization techniques don’t consider tech debt and tech value for platform stability – I’m sensing a lot of frustration from the devs that we care about user value and don’t consider deprecating and upgrading.. anyone got any experience or suggestions on how to manage this?

We allow for 20% of each sprint to be taken up with Tech Debt. We keep it in a separate backlog and then have a discussion with the tech lead to see what pieces need to be pulled in during sprint planning.

For us, tech debt is only considered if it is having an impact (and it has more often than we believe, we just need to look for it). So we actually always link tech debt to user value and we document it in our project management system. Tech debt takes roughly 30% of our time to address.
We have a small dev team but I would say they are happy with the current way of addressing debt.

Hi Smriti, We spend around 20-40% of time to clear tech debt in each sprint. Depend upon ongoing projects and demand coming in. I guess your company is business driven. So lot of new demands coming in every now & then. I understand it becomes very difficult to manage. Just allocate some time in each sprint.

Hey all that’s helpful thank you! And how do you prioritize the tech debt tasks in a big pool of tech related tasks (incl. automation etc)?

Smriti how to prioritize your tech debt should be a conversation you need to have with your lead devs. When it comes to trimming down technical debt, you have to consider what implications will refactoring code have on your current timeline/product.

Here are some questions I would circulate with your dev team to help prioritize your technical debt:

  • Is the tech debt blocking the development of other features?
  • Can the product be continued with this debt in the future?
  • Is the fix small enough to fit in a current sprint without impacting the scope of work?

All good points above.

I would also add, you can a Tech Debt sprint usually during the holidays. Nothing much happens around this time anyways.

ie. December and early January which are Christmas, New Years

In terms of prioritizing Tech Debt, you have them develop their own prioritization framework. For the most part, as long as it doesn’t interfere significantly with the roadmap, you can careless.

You can also use this as leverage for negotiating with your devs.

ie. For every 5 days of Tech Debt, spend 2 days on bug fixes/UI fixes/Internal tooling, etc.


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