Technical Debt is a whole new way of looking at product quality and making it more manageable.
It’s about getting an overall picture when it comes to any kind of a defect or problem you might have with a product and which converts into a cost in terms of the hours and the money you need to spend to fix it,
When you have a Technical Debt linked to a product it means that it is harder to work with. Not just for the engineers who will have to find ways to work around it, but it also spills over onto decision-making and how you choose to do certain things. There’s also an interest rate linked to having a Technical Debt, because as long as you have this debt in your system, you’re continuously paying it off and accumulating interest by having to circumvent the problem to fix other things and it makes it more difficult to work with the product itself.
Up until now, Technical Debts have only really been applied within the software development industry. But it can be applied to any industry, and any type of production. You could, for example, take advantage of your PLM system by gathering the debt related to your manufacturing – in terms of product returns, customer complaints and technical issues – in just one single place to get an overall picture. Today, most companies separate these kind of problems, where returns are channelled into one place, complaints into another, and so on. So the debt is only partly dealt with or ‘paid off’ and therefore a part of it remains.
Within software development, which is the only industry where it has been applied so far, the Technical Debt has been calculated by defining a set of rules for what is considered to be of good quality. If, for example, there is a coding- or syntax error and that error is left uncorrected, the work related to that individual error is translated into the amount of minutes it will take to fix. The development of the debt is then tracked, to see whether it is reducing or increasing.
We can help you find ways to expose and identify any problems so that you can get an overall picture of your Technical Debt. With the exception of the software development industry, this way of looking at product quality has basically been unexplored up until now. I think that by expanding this type of mindset also to other industries, it could make a huge difference for the majority of our customers. It’s not as if all problems need to be fixed – some might cost more to fix than to leave uncorrected and so you will decide to live with certain problems – but if you keep a Technical Debt you will be 100 percent aware of the defects or problems that you might have in your production and you can make active choices about what to do about them.