Matthew Heusser
Matthew Heusser - Consultant and Writer on Software Delivery and Testing
For the past several years, my personal focus has been on risk management.I help find, train, and grow communities of engaged software professionals.

Eight years ago I organized the Workshop on Technical Debt at Calvin College, and I've stayed involved in the discussion since.

The concept, to me, seems simple, intuitive, and obvious: Technical short-cuts lead to a slight increase in value today at the expense of speed tomorrow.

Then Ron Jeffries, a co-author of the Agile Manifesto, got up to speak, along with his partner, Chet Hendrickson. Ron and Chet had served as part of the team that invented Extreme Programming in 1999.

What they had to say turned the workshop upside down.

Technical Assets

What draws me to Anaheim, Calif., in October is not the walking Disney characters (though there are plenty of those), but instead the STARWest, the West Coast’s largest conference on software testing analysis and review.

Executives, Management, and Testers: Are You Aligned?

When I arrived at Agile 2013, I looked at the program and picked out sessions -- mostly about improving the front-end of development. In order to do this, I had to pass the lounge area, which had tables, chairs, couches, easels ... and lots and lots of white boards. This area was the “open jam”, a collaboration space where anyone could propose anything.

Open Spaces at the Agile Conference

At a time when other conferences are splitting into smaller and smaller regional and micro-tech events, the Agile Conference, with its 1,700 attendees, stands alone.

Alone and overwhelming. The event had sixteen different tracks spanning everything from DevOps to coaching and mentoring, leadership, and lean startup to classic elements like development, testing, and quality assurance.

Not to mention the vendor booths, the Stalwarts Stage (where experts "just" answered questions for 75 minutes), the four-day boot camp for beginners, and the academic track. The 215 sessions brought one word to mind: overwhelming.

Instead of focusing on one track or concept, I spent my time at the conference looking for themes and patterns. What surprised me was where I found those ideas -- to the left, in product design, and to the right, in DevOps, not in the middle, in classic software.

Extending Agile To The Left

It’s been over 20 years since Ward Cunningham introduced the debt metaphor with an experience report at OOPSLA, the conference for Object Oriented Programming. At the time, Cunningham was arguing that debt was a good idea -- you could get the software out faster by taking shortcuts, collect additional revenue, and come back later to pay it off.

Two Decades of Technical Debt And What Do We Know?