Agile Alliance Technical Debt Initiative

I have not been doing much noise around it, but now has come the time to announce some work that we have been doing on the ‘Agile Alliance Technical Debt Initiative’.

I was waiting for the publication of some of our deliverables, now available on this same page, to write a post about our program and our group. You might not know Agile Alliance, but I am sure you have at least heard of the Agile Manifesto. Well, as said on this page, “The Agile Alliance was formed shortly after this gathering to encourage practitioners to further explore and share ideas and experiences.”

Our group started to form one year ago, and we had a kick-off meeting in May 2015, to organize our work on different objectives, one of which being to build a model of analysis of the technical debt. We were collaborating mostly by Hangouts, as we are located in different countries on both sides of the ocean. And then we had a workshop in Washington, to present and discuss our first results and share ideas and thoughts.

I will have to write a post in the future about this meeting because it is the greatest one I ever had. I remember that at first, I thought it impossible to cover all the points in the agenda. But we did it, without hurry or rushing the job, thanks mostly to Declan, one of the chairman of our group, but also an Agile practitioner and a Director at Agile Alliance, and to Jean-Louis, also a chairman and the renowned author of the SQALE method for managing the technical debt.

I will also have to do another post about the ‘Dice of Debt’ that Tom presented us during this workshop. Tom is a Practice Director of the Cutter Consortium, specialized in Agile subjects – he was in the Industry Analyst Panel of Agile 2015 – and also an expert in Gamification. I remember what Tom said when presenting us the ‘Dice of Debt’: “If you do a presentation, people do not listen. If you ask them to participate to a game, they will be ready to learn”. He was sure right about that, and everybody had a lot of fun and the ‘Dice of Debt’ is really an educational game about Agile practices to manage technical debt.

Not another publication about Technical Debt

I know what you think: “Oh, another publication about Technical Debt. As if we haven’t already enough”. Well, there is a couple of reasons why I believe our deliverables stand out from the usual literature on the subject. First of all, you are right, there are a lot of papers and posts about the metaphor, and not all are close to the original idea. I already have written a post some years ago about the use some guys are doing of the concept.

In the introduction of our program, we have presented  our vision of what is Technical Debt, and as we counted with Ward Cunningham to review our work, I believe we stayed close to the original metaphor.

Another reason is that our main goal is to propose a ready-to-use ground-level list of simple “good practices which, when violated, generate technical debt”. So you just have to download a short one-page form of the Agile Alliance Debt Analysis Model (A2DAM), with around thirty basic rules if you want to start immediately, for instance by including them into a ‘Definition Of Done’ in order to manage technical debt on your project. The more veterans of you can also download a more complete spreadsheet if you want to customize the A2DAM model.

Note that simple does not mean simplistic, and you will find on the same page a detailed explanation of all the different attributes (Thresholds, Remediation Costs and Types, Scope, SOLID and Simple Design attributes, etc.) of the model.
We also wanted these rules to be easily automatable, so we ask to different software vendors of Source Code Analysis tools to review the list and give us their feedback. Thanks all for this, you will find the name of the reviewers in the section ‘Acknowledgments’ at the end of the page.

There is less literature about managing the technical debt on agile projects, except for some general ideas. In my knowledge, this is the first time there is a list of actions to manage technical debt on different dimensions, at release-level, iteration-level and story-level activities.

You can let a comment on all these pages, they will be welcome.

Well, there will be more in 2016. I did not talk about Thierry and Dan, who participated to these deliverables, and are promising us some new approaches for the next 12 months. So let me finish with a full presentation of our group, and a photo taken during our workshop in 2015.

Agile Alliance Technical Debt Initiative – Washington 2015

Agile Alliance Technical Debt Initiative – Washington 2015

Thierry Coq, Jean-Louis Letouzey, Jean-Pierre Fayolle, Dan Sturtevant, Tom Grant, Declan Whelan

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