"Technical debt" is a successful metaphor that exposes software engineers to economics, and managers to a significant technical problem. It provides a language that both engineers ("technical") and managers ("debt") understand.
But, "technical debt" is just a metaphor that has its limitations, too. The most important limitation is that it presents a negative proposition: The best thing that can happen to you is having no technical debt.
Technical debt is both brought about and solved as a result of decisions. As such, we turn our attention to how people reach decisions about a software system. Decision making is a critical software engineering activity. Developers alone spend some half of their time reading code. This means half of the budget. Even though it is the single most significant development activity, nobody really talks about how this effort is being spent.
It’s time to change this. The talk motivates the need for software assessment as an explicit discipline, it introduces the humane assessment method and outlines the implications.