Technical Debt

A concept first described by software pioneer Ward Cunningham to explain the downside to “quick and dirty” code changes. While short term coding changes or work-arounds allow for rapid deployment, they also create technical debt in the form of man hours that will be required in the future to find and recode these changes. These extra hours can be thought of as a kind of interest that continues to accrue, similar to the way financial debt incurs interest.

Not all technical debt is bad; project managers need to weigh the requirements for getting a code change into production quickly against the technical debt it will incur in the future. Nor is technical debt always due to programming laxity. It is also the result of the inevitable evolution of technologies.