The first step to solving technical debt has to be for the business and technical teams to have a common, agreed direction for the product(s). To determine the right direction, the team will need a ‘map’ – this is generally the company vision, which should come from the senior management team/board.
Only with a clear direction to measure their progress against, can they be sure that they’re all aligned and how far along the path they are. Sure, ‘Widget ABC’ or ‘Product XYZ’ might contain lots of technical debt, but with an agreed direction, everyone can identify whether the time spent resolving any debt in a particular area takes them down the right path, or that they should concentrate their efforts elsewhere.
Ask any business (involved in software product development) to list their biggest problems; not having enough capacity to get everything done will probably be right up there. Ask any technical team to list their biggest problems and they’ll probably come up with a really long list. There will probably be one hidden/undocumented problem that relates them all – not enough hours in the day (again, capacity) to work on them all. So if capacity is such a limited resource, everyone (on all the teams) needs to make sure that every bit of effort counts!
Without an agreement between the business and technical teams, everything is being left to chance that both teams know what the undiscussed direction is and are in alignment.
There are so many reasons why having an agreed and published direction is a good thing, successfully starting to tackle technical debt being just one of them.
Sometimes you will come across a codebase/application that looks in such a mess or so old that the only option is to do a full rewrite. The code is horrible and out of date, it’s using an old version of a language/framework and everyone has forgotten how it works. Everyone agrees it will be much faster to just throw it away and start again. This seems to be how so many software projects start. Over . . .