Organizational debt, DevOps and OpenSource

A debt is a debt, it’s something you acquire to be able to acquire other capabilities or values in a market, product, behavior… Every company have this type of debt with more or less exposure.

organizational-debtThis debt can be excess of organization (typically a big company) or lack of organization (commonly a start-up). Companies acquire debt to be more competitive: more speed of execution, less price per product,…

Organizational Debt: The interest companies pay when their structure and policies stay fixed and/or accumulate as the world changes.


The worst problem of organizational debt is that the people running the company does not know it. The second problem is that they know the issue and they kick it forward, increasing the debt. The third big problem is the lack of action. If some of these reasons are affecting a company, it’s basically because it’s run by incompetent people and they will disappear sooner or later.

Apart of that, the typical “debts” acquired by companies are:

  1. Obsolescence: use of old fashion processes and methodologies, with respect the market conditions.
  2. Accumulation: too much roles, too much review processes, too much people… again with respect the market conditions.
  3. Bad behavior of leaders and employees: No one trust each other, fear, people act in a defensive way.

For instance, DevOps is a culture supported by some automation tools that if it’s well implemented, we will have the opportunity to remove organizational and technical debt:

  • Organizational debt: due to the fact that some processes will be more agile. The challenge here is that the organization has to acquire them and be able to adapt to them (this is the hard side of DevOps).
  • Technical debt: due to the use of automation tools that will remove obsolete tools or manual scripts that makes the speed of execution to be lower.

To me, DevOps has more positive impact on organizational debt than on technical debt.

Open Source is also contributing significantly to the debt reduction, specially the technical debt. You have other organizations implementing solutions that you can use in your organization with low price. If your organization is agile enough to use them, you will be able to reduce the level of exposure of these lack of technological need. If you do not have this ability, you will have to acquire a service/product (increasing financial debt) or even worst: you will have to implement by yourself.

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