Free: Technical Debt Cheat Sheet

Executive Cheat Sheet Quick-Start Technical Debt Assessment

The Real Costs of Technical Debt

Operational Complexity This is measured by the amount of difficulty you currently face in making your system operate as expected. The greater the difficulty, the more complexity in your system.

Support Complexity This is measured by your ability to respond to daily problems. Even if a system is operating successfully, it will need continued care to ensure users can use it as designed.

Complexity Factor The interest that technical debt incurs shows up in the form of complexity. The more complex your systems, the higher your interest rate.

Functional and Usage Complexity

Integration and Technology Complexity This is measured by the maturity and consistency of your solutions’ architecture. No system exists in isolation. Eventually, they will need to comunicate with other systems to support a larger value chain.

This is measured by your system’s ease of use. Even the best system will not perform well if users face tremendous difficulty using it or if its functions do not meet actual business needs.

Complexity Factor Matrix Technical Debt Assessment Continuum and Attributes












Thoroughly defined architecture

Well-defined architectural standards

Architectural standards exist

Ad-hoc or dated architectural standards

Poorly defined architecture or one created as part of a project life cycle

Current architecture


Strong governance

Good governance

Some governance

Weak governance

No governance

Future-state architecture

Future-state architecture plans refreshed annually

Future-state architecture plans in place

Evidence of some future-state architecture

Ad-hoc future-state architecture planning

Future-state architecture plans absent

Waiver management

Waiver limits established and enforced

Waivers formally reviewed

Ad-hoc waivers

No waiver management

No waiver management

SLA management

SLAs typically exceeded SLA adherence

SLAs generally met

Constant SLA exceptions

Poor SLA adherence

Functional delivery

Consistent, rapid delivery of new functionality

Most often timely delivery of new functionality

Reasonable delivery of new functionality

Ad-hoc delivery of new functionaliy

Consistently missing delivery targets

The Complexity Factor (CF) self-assessment in the following section is designed to be applied to any area or function. While it provides a very high-level analysis, the results will allow you to determine whether there’s a need to engage outside help to do a deeper dive.

Use the resulting CF score and refer to the table above to see where you stand.

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