Dealing with Technical Debt cuts to the heart of the 'debt' metaphor's limitations. Debt implies regular interest payments, but that's not necessarily the case with technical debt. There's quite a continuum, from your 'high street bank' style debt: obvious, regular 'payments' impeding forward momentum; to your loan-shark style debt: maybe you'll get away without paying anything for a long time, but one night in a dark alley he'll want your kneecaps. This latter, unpredictable impact, is the more common scenario.
This then clarifies our approach towards technical debt: treat it as a risk. So, like all risks, you can:
- Mitigate - Have a fall-back position if the debt becomes an issue
- Accept - Assess that the risk is lower than the cost of fixing. You might get lucky
- Reduce - Either deal with the debt, or avoid building new functionality on debt-ridden areas
- Transfer - Make it SomeoneElsesProblem. Tricky.