The best time to address technical debt is when it is not a problem.  When you start to feel it, it is usually too late.

This is something I got to experience a couple of days ago.  Let me explain.

For those who know me personally, you will know that my wife owns two waxing salons.  A couple of days ago, we had a winter storm blanket 6 inch of snow over our community.   The result, the roof on one of her salons failed and started to dump water all over the floor.

This wasn’t the first time the roof started to leak at this location.  The roof leaked last winter in the same spot resulting in an emergency repair last February.  The landlord knew a year ago that the roof needs to be replaced.

Unfortunately, the summer passed by, and nothing happened.  Since the roof had no issues during the summer, it quickly because “out of sight and out of mind.”

Instead of addressing the roof issue during the warm summer months, the roofing crew needed to scoop 12 inches of snow off the roof and perform an emergency repair.  Not only that, the ceiling is damaged again and needs to be repaired.

You might not have water pouring into your building, but we all have technical debt we are ignoring. Technical debt has different levels of risk which leads to different degrees of urgency. Not everything needs to be fixed right now.  Something things never need to be fixed.

For instance, we had a 100-year rain last summer that resulted in some minor flooding on our property.  Nothing was damaged, but we did need to clean-up afterward.  To truly address the issue, we would need to rip up part of the lawn and do some dirt work. Since are rain like this will not happen again for another 100-years (statistically speaking) we are choosing to accept the risk and not make any changes.

What about you?  What technical debt issues are you not addressing?

Do you rate or rank your issues to determine the likelihood of it happening again?  What are you doing to fix the high probability issues before they happen?  Have you identified those issues that you know will show up?  Do you consciously choose what to fix or are you just dealing with the latest “fire”?

Instead of being reactive, start addressing the issues.  It might be a hard sell, but is worth it.

We knew last year that the roof was past its usable life, and it will continue to develop leaks.  The roofing company said it will continue to leak until it is replaced.  I would much rather fix the issue on a sunny summer day then have leaks in the dead of winter.

What about you?


Photo by Chris Thompson on Unsplash