Why you should care about product technical debt
By Marina Ciocoiu, Business Analyst
As a Product Owner, your primary focus is ensuring quality in the product you are managing. That being said, technical debt is an important issue that has a direct impact on delivering a successful outcome.
But what exactly is technical debt? According to ProductPlan, technical debt is “the result of prioritizing a speedy delivery over a perfect code.” To put it simply, it’s the fast implementation and delivery of a feature or functionality, which would need to be refactored at a later point in time.
The first thing that may come to mind when you think of technical debt is that it is something that the development team should be concerned with. However, even if the developers take care of the tradeoffs of code improvement, like paying technical debt, a Product Owner should also pay close attention to the technical debt accumulated in the product they own.
So, how does technical debt affect features delivery or product quality? Below are a few examples that highlight the negative impact:
- Causing product/cost ratio to continually rise
- Increasing the time-to-market
- Diminishing the positive impact on product value
- Requiring more effort on stabilizing the features for releases
- Scaling up bug trends (high number of bugs, increased complexity of bugs)
- Having a fake velocity that affects the product planning release
- Slowing down the overall product performance
Performance is dramatically lower due to the accumulated technical debt in the product, leading to gaps in the product quality. The technical debt should be a concern for a PO, because it might impact the delivered value and the total cost of building the product. If the technical debt is ignored or postponed, you will eventually pay a hefty price to fix it.
Technical debt does not fall solely on the shoulders of the developers. Whoever owns the product should also own the debt, as they’re responsible for the product’s cost and quality. A product owner should be aware of the accumulated debt and make sure that it does not affect the product quality. It’s also important to have good communication and collaboration with the technical team in order to address technical debt as often as possible.
A product owner’s job is to continuously deliver the quality and the expected outcome within your product. If you own the product, you also own the debt and you need to pay for it. So, start building a good relationship with the technical debt and pay more attention to it with the help of the development team.