Developer Toil: The Hidden Tech Debt

Tech debt encompasses all of the shortcuts and maintenance compromises made in favor of shipping product features now instead of spending time fixing, or “paying down,” technical debt. Most teams focus on paying down tech debt related to your app’s code. But we find that focusing on another type of tech debt—developer toil—has equal benefit, sometimes more in the early stages of a company’s efforts to improve its software process.

This paper describes our Developer Toil Audit with examples and tools to help you get started auditing your own team’s developer toil and tech debt. We’ve developed this method and process at VMware Tanzu Labs after helping hundreds of organizations improve their software development and delivery process. We use this approach with clients as part of a broader technical debt assessment methodology and hope you find it a useful tool to measure, quantify and prioritize your team’s effort.