Measuring technical debt

Once you realise you have a problem, understanding how much of a problem becomes imperative. Hence, some sort of model to quantify your problem becomes urgent. This is actually surprisingly easy though, since science shows us that the cost to maintain one line of code, is fixed over time, regardless of programming language. Hence, to quantify your technical debt, is actually as easy as counting your KLOC, or thousands of lines of code to speak in non-technical terms.

As you do though, please realise that simply because you have a lot of lines of code, doesn’t necessarily imply that you should simply throw it all out, to “reduce your debt”. However, since the cost of maintaining a single line of code is fixed, and a single developer can maintain somewhere between 50KLOC to 250KLOC, depending upon his skillset, and whether or not he was instrumental to its original architecture, etc – At least now you can start quantifying how much resources you are at the minimum in need of, in case tighter times are to come in the future.

This results in that you will know more about the potential future requirements of your company, and also be able to project what amount of freedom you have, in regards to resource spendings in the future, in order to maintain your current operational level of your organisation.

In my next article, I will visit strategies for reducing technical debt, and such create more freedom for you, and your organisation – But for now, feel free to run a count script through your Git repository, if you’d like to understand your organisation from a high level perspective. In fact, if you haven’t done this already, I would argue it’s the equivalent of driving your car blindfolded. KLOCs might not necessary be the perfect instrument for measuring quality, and measuring innovation – But it’s definitely the by far simplest way to measure your technical debt, allowing you to understand your own organisation, with a simple script that you could probably have one of your sys-admins execute in a couple of minutes. It’s the equivalent of windshield wipers on your car, making sure you’re able to see the road ahead of you – At least if you have the creation of software as some form of primary or secondary function within your organisation. In fact, KLOC should be one of the primary KPIs in any organisation serious about producing software of some sort.

Unless you can give me your KLOC count, you’re arguably blind to what your own organisation is capable of

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