Technical Debt Quadrant

In a practical corporate software development scenario, there are times when you have (willingly or otherwise) to give up to trade-offs and compromises  especially when the deadlines looms over you or, in worst case, you are LAZY !!. You might be prompted to choose a less than optimal solution due to situational constraints, which might lead to technical debts. But how would one convince the stakeholders (or may be himself) that you are not entirely wrong in opting for the selected solution ? How do you categorize technical debts

Martin Fowler had suggested a Technical Debt Quadrant which comes pretty useful in vindicating the trade offs by categorizing the situations or the intention with which we opt for debt.


The technical debt quadrant is quite easy to use and is especially useful when addressing a non-technical audience (stakeholders) about the trade-offs chosen. It can also act as guidelines for team (and product owner) when the deadlines are looming and trade-offs are required.

A Prudent-Deliberate Quadrant is a ideal situation wherein the team/developer has evaluated the alternatives and picked the choice completely conscious of the implications to achieve a specific business goal.They are aware that they would need to repay the debt at some point and has a plan of action for the same. This is where the team would ideally like to be when encountered with a technical debt. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a Reckless-Deliberate quadrant, which should be avoided at all cost. It implies that the developer/team understands the implications of the actions, but choose to opt for same citing avoidable reasons/excuses.

The Prudent-Inadvertent quadrant belongs to the class of hard working team who had the best intentions, but choose a different solution when a better one was available. Considering their keen interest for improvement and intention, these men represent a team who will improve over time. The last of the quadrant, the Reckless-Inadvertent group usually consists of who are inexperienced and doesn’t know the best practices. It was their ignorance which caused the debt, which is, to an extend acceptable.

On any day, a Prudent-Deliberate Quadrant is a scenario that the stake holders might not mind. However, all other types of scenarios needs to avoided.

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