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Posted by Tom Grant on October 12, 2010
When you were a child, you may have played with a paper fortune teller (a.k.a. cootie catcher). By folding and unfolding this origami-like construct, you produced answers for questions you posed.
The topic of technical debt is a lot like the paper fortune teller: the more you unfold the topic, the more interesting observations emerge. Israel Gat wrote two recent posts (click here and here) at his blog, The Agile Executive, that illustrate the sort of costs that technical debt imposes. His second post focuses on the most conspicuous cost: The more you develop, heedless of the technical debt you create, the harder and harder it becomes to make further changes. While this may seem like an obvious conclusion, it's not one that has the impact on software development that it should. In their rush into the future, building code that is supposed to expand choices, many teams are actually constraining their choices.
For ISVs, technical debt has a lot of important ramifications. Here are just a few:
As you can see, the questions that technical debt inspires keep unfolding. Since I just published a piece on the business ramifications of software as a service (SaaS), it's also worth noting that SaaS changes some of these considerations about technical debt. For example, through SaaS, ISVs can get more visibility into the technical debt from the customer's perspective, and they can help customers reach the inflection point for upgrading earlier. Still, technical debt never disappears, either in the ISV's own code, or the customer's implementation of it.
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