The concept of technical debt comes from the idea that you haven’t paid down something in full, and now you have created this technical debt that needs to be repaid at some point in time. In this article, I want to dig into what that something is. I define that as Technical Capital.
While this blog post is able to be read on its own without any prior knowledge, it is a part of our Lessons in Factorio series, so if this is your first time reading one of this series’ blog posts, I recommend starting from the first one and working your way through them. The first post can be found here: Why I Learned from Factorio: Lean Networking
Forms of Technical Capital
Technical capital can take a few forms. Please reach out and let me know if there are any other forms you can think of that would be useful to highlight, but this is what I’ve developed thus far.
Personal knowledge and training are paramount for being able to build your technical capital and manage the technical debt you’ve acquired. You need to know what you are working with and know what you need to do with it to achieve your goals.
In short, this usually means documentation and knowing where to find it for use in the future. If you come up with a solution to a problem that is fairly common, then make sure to document it so you or anybody else doesn’t have to figure out what to do all over again because you didn’t document it when you figured it out the first time.
Bandwidth refers to a few things, which is the number of engineer-hours and the number of creative-thinking-hours on your team. How long do you have to complete the entirety of your project? You need to think about this so you can get an accurate estimation of your costs including the planning and execution.
Tooling and Infrastructure
Tooling and Infrastructure you have access to also factors into how much technical capital you have. This could be a firewall that is a pleasure to configure and setup, or an automation platform that makes configuring devices at scale a breeze.
There are also items and tools that are difficult to work with that lowers your technical capital. This can be a firewall that is a pain to work with or something that is difficult to configure or is very unreliable.
You need to assess how much all these items and tools benefit or hinder you so you’re able know the precise amount of technical capital you are working with for your project.
Raising Technical Capital with e-Mayhem
If you’re finding you’re needing help raising technical capital and paying off technical debt, e-Mayhem can provide all of these forms of technical capital to your team.
We can bring the additional expertise and bandwidth to raise the technical capital you need. We can also help with choosing and acquiring the right tools and hardware. Reach out to us and we will be happy to add to your technical capital.
Tech Debt Revisited
So now that we’ve identified some forms of technical capital, it’s easier to identify exactly how we’ve created technical debt in the first place. Technical debt is created when we’ve somehow not paid enough technical capital to a project or task. This could be not giving enough time to complete it, putting someone in charge that doesn’t have the knowledge to do it well, or simply buying hardware or software that comes with technical debt.
Flexibility in Technical Payments
Overall, the technical capital cost may be the same, but how you choose to pay it off has some flexibility. Sometimes you have technical debt that you just aren’t sure how to pay back. There are usually a few ways you can pay it down.
Not Enough Knowledge on the Team
You can make up for lack of experience with time, for example. Say you don’t have the experience required for the project on your team. You could make up the difference by providing more time for your engineers to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to raise that capital to pay the debt off.
Not Being Provided the Right Tools
You can also make up for not having the right tooling or hardware with enough engineer knowledge. With enough time the engineers themselves can create the tools or make something to replace what isn’t currently working.
How to Use This Concept To your Advantage
I also want to tell you about how I used technical capital to come up with the technical cost or Bill of Materials (BoM) to complete a project. This helped me anticipate whether or not we could afford a project with what we were provided with from a technical perspective. It’s also an interesting idea, because it allows me to better work with management to ask for additional financial capital to purchase additional technical capital if needed.
Determining the Technical Capital Available for a Project
When given a project, you’re usually given two things, the requirements and the deadline. You’re usually stuck with the engineers you have, so that gives your baseline technical capital.
With the concept of technical capital in mind, I could determine if my team would be able to complete a project or not successfully with the resources we were allotted and give better reasons to management as to why or why not.
Determining the Technical Cost for a Project
Now I look at the technical cost. One of the many hats I wear is that of a Project Manager, so I suspect it’s easier for me than most, but if you’re adept enough, it’s doable by any engineer. Basically, I attempt to do a basic discovery to determine how much of the project we have the capabilities to do, how good we are at it, and how many engineer hours I’ll anticipate it’ll need.
Negotiating for Additional Technical and Financial Capital
I’ve found that instead of telling management their project can’t be done, telling them what it would take to complete proves to be far more effective. This gives them the tools to make an informed decision on if the project is worth it or not. If they feel like the project is worth it, they’ll gladly grant additional funding or time. Otherwise, they may realize that their request is unreasonable given the cost and opt to not move forward with it.
If your project is looking technically underfunded, you know you’ll need to negotiate for additional financial capital to get outside help or better tooling. You can also negotiate for more time for your team to complete the project. In non-technical-capital terms, you’re simply negotiating for a longer timeline or just pushing the deadline back.
While technical capital doesn’t help you solve problems, just being aware of technical capital can help you frame your problems and approach problems to find solutions, very similar to tech debt in that regard.
Thank you for checking this out. I hope you learned something new or enjoyed reading this. If you had any comments, questions, or just wanted to share your thoughts on this article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
e-Mayhem helps companies successfully deliver business projects. We also help companies avoid losses associated with IT disruptions and security threats. You can learn more about our services at e-mayhem.com or by emailing email@example.com