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

100

0

20

40

60

80

Optimized

Planned

Manageable

Challenged

Chaos

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

Governance

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.

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

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EXECUTIVE CHEAT SHEET | QUICK-START TECHNICAL DEBT ASSESSMENT

THE COMPLEXITY FACTOR: A QUICK START SELF-ASSESSMENT

Dimension

A

B

C

Operational complexity

Does the system consistently meet availability SLAs?

Usually

Sometimes

Rarely

What portion of the operational budget is used to perform upgrades, fixes, or workarounds?

25% or less

26%–50%

More than 50%

Are there multiple systems supporting the same business functions?

No

Some

Yes

How many components are still under vendor support?

Most

Some

Few

With deficiencies

What is your ability to promptly detect and protect against security breaches?

Best practice

Not good

Support complexity

How would you define your recovery processes?

Best practice

Unreliable

Ad-hoc

Is it easy to find skilled resources for the system?

Yes

Somewhat

Difficult

What is the availability of system documentation?

Good

Partial

Lacking

How often do break-fix services meet SLA?

Usually

Sometimes

Rarely

How often are proactive alerts and logs for analysis available?

Generally

Some

Not available

Integration and technology complexity

How often is data is entered manually between systems?

Some

Regularly

Typically

What proportion of your systems are centrally located and managed (cloud/data center)?

Spread around

Most

Several

How often is file sharing used as primary means of data exchange?

Rarely

Frequently

Primarily

Some local/ Citrix

What interfaces do your applications have (web, Windows, Citrix)?

Mostly web

Mix

What proportion of your applications and systems are aligned with modern architecture standards?

Significant

Some

Few

Functional and usage complexity

Do problem tickets reported for system issues represent an undue precentage of total?

No

Some

Yes

How reliable is your data?

Always

Usually

No

How many manual processes does it take to perform tasks?

Few

Some

Several

How many shadow systems does it take to perform functions?

None

Some

Several

Less than a day

Less than a week

More than a week

How much user training does the system require for use?

Total

Once you’ve answered all the questions: 1. Total the number of checked boxes in each column 2. Multiply the sum of column B by 3 and the sum of column C by 5 3. Add up all three values 4. Refer your resulting score (between 20 and 100) to the Complexity Factor Matrix

CF = A + Bx3 + Cx5

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EXECUTIVE CHEAT SHEET | QUICK-START TECHNICAL DEBT ASSESSMENT

APPLY THE FOLLOWING FOUR PRINCIPLES TO KEEP YOUR OVERALL DEBT LEVELS UNDER CONTROL

Have a quality-first focus When under pressure to deliver major functionality quickly, never adopt the philosophy of “implement now and fix later”. Later never comes. Don’t sacrifice quality for speed.

01

Establish a well-understood architecture Your architecture sets standards and filters out unnecessary options that would otherwise add complexity. An established architecture helps to get to solutions faster, which speeds up delivery.

02

Adopt industry best practices You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are all kinds of industry best practices out there such as ITIL. When in doubt, seek help from an expert.

03

Leapfrog If your total CF score is higher than 80, take the leapfrog approach. Create a green field environment based on a future state architecture. Build the new environment and convert the applications over one by one.

04

Do you need a Technical Debt Assessment?

1. Are you experiencing a high number of outages? 2. Does it take too long to deliver new business functionality?

3. Do the estimates for new projects shock you? 4. Are your trouble tickets trending upwards?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may want to perform a Technical Risk Assessment.

Visit us at wavestone.us or give us a call at (610) 854-2700 to see what we can do for you.

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