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5 Ways the IAE is Reducing Technical Debt

Technical debt has a lot in common with personal debt because both amount to paying more money for bad choices.

 

Avoiding personal debt involves making the right choices about how you spend your money. For instance, do I really need to put that cup of expensive coffee on my credit card when I have coffee at home? Technical debt can be similar to financial debt because both start with bad choices. Poor system design and development practices, ignoring user experience (UX), and poor communications between teams and customers increase technical debt in large-scale software projects.

When you raise the technical debt of your software development project, it leads to increased costs for development and operations. Such higher costs are a sensitive subject in both business and government. Preventing technical debt helps the Integrated Award Environment (IAE) Program Management Office (PMO) and technical leadership be prudent stewards of taxpayer’s money.

Here are five ways IAE is preventing technical debt:

  1. Instituting and Following Agile Development Practices

Agile development practices don’t lock project teams into long development cycles that are the norm in traditional waterfall managed software projects.
 

Using an agile development cycle with two-week sprints, the technical team focuses on the frequent delivery of working software. Product Owners can see the growing capabilities and provide timely feedback.  

2. Investing in User Experience

The IAE's attention to user experience (UX) is partly about preventing technical debt by engaging the federal award management community through focus groups one-on-one interviews, and prototype reviews.

The IAE UX team has spent a considerable amount of time on creating personas of all the user types identified in the federal award management community. These personas feed into use cases  and features that address real-world requirements.

3. Using Software Development and Architectural Best Practices

The IAE PMO has instituted software development and architectural best practices to help prevent technical debt including using architectural runway to support the implementation of the highest priority features without excessive redesign or technical debt.  An architectural runway is  a continual investment in implementing just enough runway to support upcoming business epics and features.

If the Program accepts technical debt for short-term tactical reasons, the technical debt is documented, and mitigation plans developed to pay it off in a future sprint or release.

The IAE Implements code quality management tools to inspect all source code continuously and automatically for issues that may impact the IAE platform is another best practice we follow to reduce technical debt.

4. Implementing DevOps

Reducing and preventing technical debt is one of the reasons that the IAE made the move to embrace DevOps. The IAE DevOps team establishes best practices in software testing, automation and deployment as part of the development process to enable the program to address any defects as early in the cycle as possible.

5. Investing in Stakeholder Outreach

The IAE prevents  technical debt by continuously engaging users and stakeholders about software needs and requirements. The IAE Outreach team elicits award community feedback through multiple channels, namely:

  • The IAE Digest Newsletter

  • IAE Industry Community Page here on GSA Interact

  • IAE Industry Days

  • iaeoutreach@gsa.gov

By engaging users and stakeholders through these digital channels, the IAE can take the pulse of what the federal award management community is experiencing and thinking. The information we collect goes into software development, operations, and policy activities enabling us to make informed decisions on future actions.

Tackling Technical Debt

Agile development, UX, and stakeholder outreach have gone along to opening up lines of communications between various IAE internal groups and the federal award management community. This openness helps our PMO, developers, and outreach teams tackle technical debt by building products that meet user needs and benefit the federal award management community, the United States government, and the taxpayer.

What strategies does your organization reduce technical debt?

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