In the debate between developers and their employers, fixing technical debt is often seen as a cost center, a time suck that takes away from feature work. After all, when there are features to ship and clients to satisfy, taking the team off such projects so that they can rewrite what already works is seen as silly, costly or foolish.
But smart employers recognize that technical debt is more than an annoyance or a cost center. They recognize that technical debt has a chance of costing them good developers.
Developers hate technical debt. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, and the struggle to find time to fix it is constant. Developers hate technical debt because it makes their jobs harder. It makes solving other problems harder. Technical debt, from a developer perspective, really sucks.
The problem here is that frustrated developers are unhappy developers. Unhappy developers have a tendency to quit. And given the fact that hiring developers is tough under the best of circumstances, this means that technical debt is actually costing your team skilled developers. And this costs money.
The loss of a single developer can cost a company $30,000 – $50,000, depending on the costs of replacing that developer. And the skills and knowledge they take with them can never really be replaced.
When considering whether or not to fix technical debt, it’s worthwhile to consider the frustration level of your development team, and the cost of replacing just one of those developers if they should choose to quit. Is the cost of fixing the debt less than the cost of replacing a developer? If so, the tech debt should be paid down, until the developers are happier and satisfied.
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