The Impact of Technical Debt on Project Management: Balancing Speed and Quality

Byon July 05#business-tips
The Impact of Technical Debt on Project Management Balancing Speed and Quality

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Today, all individuals are members of a team. This can often be quite a difficult process, as people are unique and have different ways of solving the same issue. And as a project manager, as a leader, a project manager has to follow the style of every employee. Moreover, you need to be able to supervise how the team operates and direct it towards the goals that you have established. Thus, even though everything might look easy and there are only several steps to perform in theory, things change in practice. But it is not only this. It is about how the decision-making process of the team would affect or impact the organization.

Technical debt is one of these things. A term coined by software developer Ward Cunningham, it refers to the eventual consequences of choosing an easy, limited, or short-term solution instead of a better approach that would take longer. As a leader and project manager, you have to learn how to manage technical debt. And how to prioritize tech debt too. This metaphor emphasizes the long-term cost incurred when development teams take shortcuts to achieve short-term gains. Measuring tech debt and managing it is a critical aspect of project management. Why? Because it requires a delicate balance between speed and quality. So, let’s see how you can balance these two. 

Understanding Technical Debt 

If you want to learn how to balance speed and quality when it comes to technical debt, you first have to understand what is technical debt. Of course, there are many types of technical debt, and reading a few details about them will help you understand what is technical debt. As mentioned above, a technical debt definition would be the consequence of choosing a short-term solution instead of an approach that would take longer to implement.  

There is code debt, for example, which refers to poor coding practices, lack of adherence to coding standards, and quick fixes. There is design debt, where suboptimal software architecture and design decisions hamper future development. There is test debt, when there is insufficient or inadequate testing. This leads to bugs and stability issues. Documentation debt is about inadequate documentation, while infrastructure debt is about using outdated hardware or software. Last but not least, there is process debt, meaning the lack of standardized processes in development and operations. 

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Causes of Technical Debt 

To understand and learn how to better manage your project and team and balance speed and quality, you need to be aware of the possible causes of technical debt. Most of the time, there is time pressure. Which makes the team lose some things from sight or adopt quick solutions. Sometimes, there might not be enough resources available, due to budgetary constraints or other reasons. Requirements might change on the way, which of course, leads to technical debt. Also, the experience of team members is an essential aspect that contributes to goal achievement. Inexperienced team members might make suboptimal decisions. Or simply the business priorities might be focused on other aspects right now. 

Strategies to Manage Technical Debt 

Managing technical debt might sound facile. And it is not as complex or complicated as it seems. However, you have to adopt and implement a few strategies. For example, you should regularly refactor code to improve its structure without changing its behavior. Also, frequent code reviews would help too. If they are rigorous, you can ensure adherence to standards. Invest in automated testing too. This way you will catch issues early and you can work on the bugs you find.

At the same time, all team members should know how to document the steps of the process and do it every time. If you already find yourself in technical debt, then it would be helpful to use tools and techniques to track and prioritize it. You can gradually improve code quality in small, manageable increments and allocate specific times or sprints that are focused on addressing it. 

Decision-Making Framework 

You have read the causes that generate technical debt of any type. And if you take a closer look, there is one thing common to them all. The decisions were made on the spur of the moment. It can be inexperienced team members who have to decide on some details. It can be the decision to not invest in automated testing. It can be the decision to postpone the documentation of the process. Either way, these are just some of the causes that lead to technical debt. Thankfully, you can implement a decision-making framework to help you prevent tech debt from accumulating. 

You could start by making a cost-benefit analysis of having a fast delivery against the long-term costs of accruing debt. Also, you could have a risk assessment done. Evaluating the risks associated with different levels of technical debt is essential as you get an overview of the situation and have your expectations for the future. When you have tech debt, you have to ensure that your stakeholders understand its implications. This is because you might experience delays in delivering the project. So, if they are aware of this, you reduce the risk of conflicts and misunderstandings. 

But when you have tech debt, you have to prioritize getting rid of it. So, you can use methods that help you do this. For example, the Eisenhower Matrix helps you prioritize it based on urgency and importance. Sometimes, everything you have to do might feel urgent. But not everything is. This technique will help you be more aware of this and start with the tasks that are both urgent and important. 

However, you should be aware that you cannot prevent all types of tech debt from accumulating. So, establish a maximum acceptable level of technical debt to prevent it from becoming unmanageable. 


Technical debt remains relevant in software development, yet it can have crucial effects on project management. The Drive for speed and high quality entails sound decision-making and risk-mitigated management of technical debt. If you comprehend the consequences and act wisely, then long-term expenses may be avoided while still obtaining short-term goals. Stakeholder management and the implementation of the continuous improvement model are crucial in achieving this balance.


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