Balancing Technical Debt Innovation: How Roadmaps for Development Help Your Company Succeed

Brad Jayakody

VP of Engineering at Pleo


Your Foundation is Your Team

In order to achieve balance between technical debt and technical innovation you must have a strong foundation. You can’t maintain any sort of balance without first having the means to hold the two accounts up. Your team is your foundation.

This means that your team is what allows there to be technical innovation. Alternatively, when your team is lacking a healthy pulse, this is what leads to technical debt. How might a team be lacking in overall health?

In my experience, I have discovered that the growth and development of my teams are just as, if not more important, than the goals you set for them. Simply put, if certain engineers within your team want to grow professionally, there needs to be a roadmap in place for them to be able to do just that; the latter could result in their discontentment and therefore add to your organization's technical debt.

Your Part in the Professional Development of the Team

If your goal is to balance out technical debt and technical innovation, then I suggest you enable your teams to develop and grow.

In my career I have had engineers come to me looking for the documentation for mapping out their professional growth where there was none. I didn’t have the documentation for that sort of thing at the time and really struggled with getting it out there and available to them because it wasn’t perfect.

I knew that I had to be actionable in order to prevent more technical debt from occurring. And by this I mean that employees who are seeking to grow are focused on exactly that (and rightfully so). It was up to me as a leader to produce the documentation needed and to help them map out where they wanted to grow in order to maintain balance in what we were producing.

Documentation for Development

Once it was brought to my attention that there was something lacking in my hiring and development processes, I began to implement the necessary changes. 20% of my time was heavily invested in these processes in order to maintain balance and enable efficiency.

You go from hiring to then developing your teams and it weaves a strong basis for your team and overall company success. I believe that I can always train for skill, and the technical aspect, things like that. But, what you can’t do is train somebody how to work well with others, or how to be a good person.

So, being able to identify the right candidates who are ridden with potential can ultimately help you to develop them in the future.

Once the necessary documentation was available to my teams, it brought about so much clarity as for the future of their careers. I have now helped countless engineers develop into management which I think is highly beneficial to everyone involved.

Completion Over Perfection

Something I found from this scenario is that I needed to get rid of the “dogma” that the documentation had to be perfect. Especially in this case, there needed to be completion over perfection.

And that is something remarkably underrated – having something out there, visible, and complete rather than in its final form. Nothing is ever in its final form if you ask me. Produce things in order to transform them, enhance them, and perfect them as the teams grow and evolve as well.

  • Showing you care about the direction of individuals will help you build a strong foundation. We mustn’t forget that the driving factors of an organization’s success and outcomes rely on its people. When people feel like they are valued and have a direction in which they can go toward they end up increasing the value of your product.

  • Have a roadmap in place to show your team how they can develop. It needs to be visible, accessible, and clear. Don’t hesitate to show them the exact steps necessary in order to achieve their professional goals.

  • Hiring for good cultural fit will help you increase your technical innovation because your people are happy and fulfilled. Additionally, when your people don’t feel like they have a direction to grow toward, they add to technical debt. For example, an employee who sees no room for professional growth may not be as inclined, enthusiastic, or efficient as they can be.

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Brad Jayakody

VP of Engineering at Pleo

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