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Technical Debt Is Now Costing Us $3.61 Per Line Of Code

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 A series of blog posts by Jonathan Bloom from CAST software summarized the company's report on technical debt. Among the key findings:

  1. CAST now estimates technical debt to cost companies $3.61 per line of code.

  2. 35% of those items considered to be technical debt were severe enough to adversely affect support of the system studied, potentially resulting in security, performance or uptime issues.

  3. Outsourced and in-house developed applications didn’t show any difference in structure quality.  The same was true for onshore and offshore applications.

  4. Java EE applications were the most prevalent among those studied and received significantly lower performance scores as well as carrying greater technical debt than other languages.

  5. Established development methods such as agile and waterfall scored significantly better in structural quality than custom methods, while waterfall scored the highest in transferability and changeability.

  6. COBOL applications scored the highest in security, while .NET applications received the lowest security scores.

  7. Modularity of systems may contribute to lower quality and reduced performance.

  8. Government systems tend to be the lowest in maintainability.

  9. The more frequently the code is released the higher the technical debt.

This is the second year that CAST has produced the report. This year's data was compiled from 160 different companies from a hodgepodge of industries. The total number of systems studied was 745, representing a combined 365 million lines of code.

Analysts at Gartner have also exposed and cited the growing problem of technical debt in organizations. David Norton wrote a blog post likening the problem to a time bomb that can be ignored for a period of time, but at some point it will cause serious harm to the affected organization.

CAST and other thought leaders on technical debt suggest that organizations should be accounting for technical debt as part of their capital budgets. Israel Gat's approach for monetizing technical debt was covered by InfoQ in 2010.

 

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Community comments

  • Why Congress had to act

    by Alex Tatiyants /

  • So Agile sucks?

    by Damien Lepage /

  • Re: So Agile sucks?

    by Adam Nemeth /

  • Re: So Agile sucks?

    by Harrison Yao /

  • This is not surprising at all

    by Augusto Rodriguez /

  • Good report,but all are the truth?

    by chuanmin zuo /

  • Now for something completely different

    by Morgoth Melkor /

    • "Thought Leaders"

      by Dan Tines /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      The use of the term "thought leaders" has some pretty negative connotations in my book.

    • Why Congress had to act

      by Alex Tatiyants /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      This is exactly why Congress finally had to act: Congress to Vote on Another Technical Debt Ceiling Extension

    • So Agile sucks?

      by Damien Lepage /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      3, 5 and 9 are pretty scary. So, on average, a waterfall project made offshore will be better than an agile project onshore? Really? At least, this is not the case in my real life limited experience. Please someone debunk this before I lose all faith in humanity.

    • Re: So Agile sucks?

      by Roopesh Shenoy /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      Food for thought for all the agilists! Looks like the whole purpose of Agile (improving engineering quality) has been completely defeated!

      IMHO this is more true about those pseudo-agile projects which act like mini-waterfalls - nobody thinks of reducing scope in a sprint when it is clear that estimates have gone wrong, and the team ends up creating technical debt. Truly agile teams focus as much on maintaining engineering quality as on quicker releases.

    • Re: So Agile sucks?

      by Adam Nemeth /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      Agile is not there to make the product better, it's there to make you feel better.

      Look at Nokia phones: they were strict waterfall before 2007, and then they switched to the purest Agile possible.

      Don't loose faith in humanity, but if your faith in Agile is debunked a bit, that could actually help. :)

    • This is not surprising at all

      by Augusto Rodriguez /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      This report gives as much real information as a palm reader would about someone's life. The truth is that *most* companies suck big time at building software, so it doesn't matter if it's waterfall, agile, lean, call it the way you want - A pile of dung called by any other name would smell as bad.

      I'll use an example of a tipical company which thinks that people are resources and manth-months effort is the only real calculation. This usually results is a heavy employee turnover as people get demotivated, so most developers tend to stay in this company for 1 year, 2 at most (Accenture, I'm looking at you). As part of this, knowledge is lost and a high number of unexperience developers end up maintaining relatively small codebases.

      Another reason is that most companies fail big time in motivating / coaching their employees to become better developers and the result is having "expert" developers with 10 years of eperience, but in fact is 10 years of doing the same mistakes over and over again.

      IMHO another useless report.

    • Re: So Agile sucks?

      by Harrison Yao /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      agree

    • Good report,but all are the truth?

      by chuanmin zuo /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      "waterfall scored the highest in transferability and changeability." really? I feel that is not the truth in my real project experience.
      and transferability and changeability have little related to development methods,it is affected by Object-oriented design,or design method.

    • Re: This is not surprising at all

      by chuanmin zuo /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      I admit what you said ,and told the truth.But, could you share us some good ways to change current situation.

    • Now for something completely different

      by Morgoth Melkor /

      Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

      On a different note but for some useful information, there is a sale on Heinz baked beans on tesco website right now

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