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Managing Software Debt: Building for Inevitable Change (Agile Software Development Series) 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321554130
ISBN-10: 0321554132
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Editorial Reviews


“If you work in technology, you’re probably familiar with terms like ‘technical debt.’ The metaphor seems easy, but using it to influence change can be remarkably hard. To do that, you’re going to want to present options to decision makers, backed up by evidence. I’ve been impressed watching Chris Sterling research and refine his work in just this area for several years, and I’m pleased to see him release it as a book. If you want to go beyond clichés to talk about how to deal with the problem of software debt, this is the seminal work in the field—and it’s also the book for you.”

—Matthew Heusser, Software Process Naturalist


“Inertia: It’s what restricts change and leads to a cost of making a change or starting a change after a period of no investment or maintenance. This book explains in great detail what the different types of debt are that lead to inertia and, ultimately, to a cost to the business in managing software maintenance and development. The richness of explanation in this book of how to manage the virtual debt that every business incurs is unmatched. Every business-focused CIO, enterprise architect, software architect, or project manager should have a copy.”

—Colin Renouf, Enterprise Architect


“Software debt is an important concept and Sterling does a sterling job of explaining what it is, why it is bad, and how to avoid it. A healthy dose of theory sprinkled with lots of pragmatic examples.”

—Roger Sessions, CTO, ObjectWatch (objectwatch.com)


“Chris Sterling’s experience in Agile architecture and his focus on software debt make this book a must-read for architects and engineers on Agile teams.”

—Jan Bosch, VP Engineering Process, Intuit


“This book offers highlights and shortcomings of managing inherited software code and the debts that come with quality software. The author offers a unique perspective on dealing with software development issues. A must-read for all software developers.”

—Leyna Cotran, Institute for Software Research, University of California, Irvine


“The vital importance of rapid feedback to the software process is a fundamental premise of modern software methods. When such feedback is quantified in the form of software debt, the software process becomes most effective. Chris Sterling’s book holds the details you need to know in order to quantify the debt and pay it back. Moreover, it will teach you how to avoid debt in the first place.”

—Israel Gat, The Agile Executive (theagileexecutive.com and on Twitter at @agile_exec)


“This book represents a wonderful opportunity for a larger community to take advantage of Chris’s many years of experience and his innovative approaches to Agile architecture and continuous quality. . . . His book distills many of his principles and techniques into practical guidelines, and he manages to convey very powerful ideas in accessible prose, despite the inherent complexity of architecture and technical debt. . . . Chris’s book will help architects, leaders, and teams see their way to better systems and better organizational performance.”

—Evan Campbell, Founder of Chinook Software Consulting

About the Author

Chris Sterling, Partner at Sterling Barton, LLC, works with widely diverse clients as a technology, management, and Agile consultant. A Certified Scrum Trainer and Innovation Games Facilitator, he has created—and continues contributing to—multiple open source projects. He has been a speaker at many conferences and events, including Agile conferences, Better Software, SD West, Scrum Gatherings, and PNSQC. He teaches the Advanced Topics in Agile Software Development course for the University of Washington’s Agile Developer Certificate extension program.

Product Details

  • Series: Agile Software Development Series
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (December 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321554132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321554130
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,837,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luke Hohmann on December 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The concept of "Software Debt" seems simple enough. Until you think about it. And then you realize that there are different kinds of debt. And that you need to understand and assess each so that you can make sensible choices about how want to make choices regarding your debt moving forward. Fortunately, Chris's Agile-friendly discussion of debt gives you a solid and useful foundation so that you can make better choices regarding your own software debt.
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Format: Hardcover
Recommendation: Must Have

I have recently read the book "Managing Software Debt" by Chris Sterling and must say I am quite impressed. The author does a fantastic job explaining the subject and provides a lot of guidance on how to deal with the issue. If you want to talk about ROI, this book is so packed with ideas and inspiration, it should cost thousands. The author maintains an open mind throughout the book, and by reading this, you do too.

The author addresses software debt at many levels, more than I knew existed. This book is part of the Agile Software Development Series, but I think this is a core book everyone involved in a software project should read (chickens and pigs). I am surprised to see so few books on the topic, but this book is so well put together, I don't know if other books are needed.

Buy it, read it, follow it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book should be mandatory reading for anyone who manages a team of software developers. The same goes for project managers over software development as well. After being in the industry for almost 7 years now, I've seen many of the same mistakes made that this book warns against, and the real costs involved. I have seen software projects bogged down in the same ways that this book describes. I was startled at how accurate the book predicted the root causes of software debt, and the outcomes when software debt problems are ignored.

From a superficial level, I found this book easy to read, and simple to understand. The book is intended for anyone in the software industry, though managers will definitely get more out of it. Despite the textbook look and feel, it's not overly technical. My only complaint is that I wish it were more affordable. If it were, I'd buy a copy for my boss... and his boss too!
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Format: Hardcover
Technical debt has become a trendy term for an issue that exists since the beginning of software development projects. It is what happens when you neglect, consciously or not, the long-term quality of your software to achieve other usually short term benefits. After defining the concept of software debt, Chris Sterling explores the topic of managing software debt in all software development activities. Three chapters are dedicated to the topic of design and architecture, discussing how they should fit in Agile approaches.

As its title suggests, this book goes even further than the concept of technical debt as it try to cover all dimensions of software development debt. My favorite chapter comes at the end where the notion of experience debt is explored. I have witnessed many projects where the technical or product knowledge was concentrated on fewer and fewer people, due to change in project team composition, effectively making them the bottlenecks where all application evolutions had to be processed. We sometimes create more debt in the heads than in the code.

The book is well written and easy to read. Every chapter begins with a mindmap of the topic that will be explored, thus giving a big picture of its content. The material mixes high level definitions with practical examples and real life stories. A summary is proposed at the end of each chapter

At every stage of the software development life cycle, we make decisions that have long term consequences. This book provides meaningful insights on how to prevent creating too much debt and how to reduce the existing burden. I will recommend it to everybody who is concerned with software quality with a longer view than the end of the next iteration.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After spending many years in Software Development, with the last few years managing agile teams, I found Sterling's assessment to be spot-on. The author did a very good job covering so many different types of software debt. As I was reading through each chapter I would say to myself, "oh yes, I remember an instance of that". This should be a required read for any software development leader, whether you're in development, architecture or management. If you haven't yet experienced the different scenarios of debt mentioned, you eventually will.
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