How To Balance Big Projects with Tech Debt and Bugs

December 1st, 2022

As technical leaders, it can be tough to balance the demands of big, highly visible initiatives with smaller features, bugs, and tech debt. Stakeholders and customers might notice the small improvements from bugs being fixed, and your developers will certainly notice the improved experience from cleaning up tech debt, but the wins that will mostly be celebrated will the shipping of big features and releases. However, to keep your product healthy, you need to find time to address tech debt and bugs.

The question is: how can you do it all? Read on to learn how to make it happen.

  1. First, create and maintain two separate backlogs for each team. One backlog should be for bigger projects, and the other should be for "small rocks" or "bugs/enhancements." Anything that takes less than about a week of developer time should go on the small rocks backlog. Having a separate small rocks backlog allows you to tackle minor enhancements without disrupting progress on your bigger deliverables. Prioritize your bugs, small feature enhancements, tech debt tasks, and similar items on the small rocks backlog.
  2. Next, carve out 20-30% of your available capacity for these small rocks and protect that time each sprint or cycle. This will help ensure that you're making progress on both big and small tasks, without sacrificing quality or overloading your team.
  3. Finally, send a weekly status email on the big initiatives, and include a list of the small rocks that were shipped. Make the small rocks backlog visible to requestors so they can see the status of their request at any time.

By following these steps, you'll be able to balance the demands of big and small projects, keep your team from burning out, and keep everyone in the loop along the way.

If you're interested in more about objective-based roadmaps and building strategy around outcomes, I'd invite you request early access to Devplan. We're building a product that focuses on this and more to build high-performing teams.

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