Thursday, November 22, 2012

Design Debt

If your programmers aren't able to estimate consistently, it's probably due to bigger problems. I'd guess they're facing a lot of design debt. Design debt occurs when you sacrifice code quality to meet a deadline. You're essentially taking a loan out on your code. You get some free time, but afterwards, everything takes a little more time to implement, because the code quality isn't there. You're paying interest--high, credit card interest--on your time loan. The only way out is to pay back your principal: spend time to fix the shortcuts.

What happens, though, is that people don't realize they're taking on design debt. So it piles up, and code quality deteriorates. Things start taking longer and longer. Everything takes longer than expected and programmers lose their ability to estimate because they're always running into unexpected problems.

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