“Let’s sneak in some tech debt work while doing some actual Epics.”. I am paraphrasing here. But, that’s pretty much what the tech lead said to me.
“Why?”, I asked.
“‘Cause, the leadership does not see any business value in doing this type of lowly maintenance type work.”, he replied.
“But that feels wrong, doesn’t it? Do they know that is today just-a-lowly-maintenance work, left alone can become tomorrows priority-zero hotfix. Do your leaders see value in keeping the lights on?”, I said in my head.
I looked back on my developer days and completely empathized with my compatriot. Because of their invisible nature, developers, DevOps and I.T. folks often fight a continuous uphill battle to justify time spent on “lowly” O&M type work or addressing non-functional requirements. In retrospect, the very term “non-functional requirement” that is used to bundle attributes like performance, availability, auditability etc. sounds derogatory. As if, meeting any of those attributes does not serve any “function”. Yes, I’ve a chip on my shoulder.
To the business owners and enterprise leadership of the world. Of course, if your tech team is spending 70% of their waking hours doing Operations and Maintenance type work and fighting fires, something is amiss. (That’s yet another blog post for yet another day). But, if your Agile Teams are not given the freedom to be transparent about their technical debts and the mandate to make continuous payment, for which you are prepared to give them credit, your business stands in line to fall prey when the debt is out for collection.
Does your Agile Team have the mandate to do what is right?