Track Talk W12

Taming your Dragon: Addressing your Technical Debt Beast

Andrew Brown

13:45-14:45 Wednesday 12th June

Technical debt remains one of the last major unresolved problems within software development. Every organisation suffers from technical debt, despite numerous attempts to resolve it. It slows down every project we do, makes them more complex, more costly, and reduces our product quality. Why does this problem remain unresolved, and what can we do about it? Technical debt remains unresolved because we profoundly misunderstand the problem. We see it as a technical problem, but its most important characteristics are not technical. Until we address these non-technical characteristics, this problem will remain unresolved.

In this session, I share insights from my upcoming book on addressing technical debt – Taming your Dragon. I introduce a radical new concept for understanding technical debt – the technical debt onion. This model consists of five layers, each representing a different facet of the problem.

To properly resolve this problem, each layer must be addressed:

  • Technical layer – This is the only layer we see. We usually think of this as technical debt.
  • Trade-off layer – Technical debt is the result of a trade-off. Learn why technical debt does so badly in that trade-off.
  • Systems layer – Learn how the organisational systems we build are causing increased technical debt.
  • Economics layer – Learn what on earth economics has to do with technical debt.
  • Wicked problem layer – Learn about wicked and tame problems, plus why they matter to technical debt.


Each layer offers a fresh and distinctive insight into the problem. I show how to combine these insights into a profound new understanding of technical debt. I then describe from my book a programme that I created to address these different layers, and so address your organisation’s technical debt problem.

Come to this groundbreaking session on technical debt to learn what this problem really is, plus how you can solve it.