Agile, Business

Presenting technical debt and the value of engineering practices to business executives in 5 minutes

On December 19th 2019, I had the privilege and opportunity to pair present with Dana Pylayeva in the NYC Scrum User Group where I shared my design of presenting to executives using Sharon Bowman’s Training from the Back of the Room

A key aspect in the Training from the Back of the Room is the 4 Cs design.

  1. Connections – What does the learner already know about the topic?
  2. Concepts – What does the learner need to know?
  3. Concrete Practice – Can you learner do it or teach it to someone else?
  4. Conclusion – How does the learner plan to use it?

This might be true for training design, but all applies to presentations and public speaking. Consider presenting to executives where you usually have 5 minutes to deliver your pitch.

As a torch bearer of better adoption of engineering practices and building a DevOps culture, I had an opportunity to present technical debt to business executives so that they encourage product owners to better prioritize engineering practices within their backlog. I only had 5 minutes and I need to make an impression so that the takeaway is not lost among other presentations and messages that were communicated to them during that day.

I used the 4Cs to design my presentation

I had handouts for each executive with information about their product portfolio, list of bugs, production issues, functional and non-function improvements made during the year and  a list of practices that will help improve the overall quality of their product.

  1. Connection – I started by connecting them with the information on their handout and asked them to take a minute to read the information on the handout and vote by using their thumbs if they thought the quality of the products in their portfolio needed to improve
  2. Concept:  I shared the concept from technical debt quadrant shared by Martin Fowler in his blog at https://martinfowler.com/bliki/TechnicalDebtQuadrant.html

Technical debt is akin to financial debt, Reckless racking up of expenses on a credit card can get you bankrupt while sometimes you have to make a decision to ship and deal with consequence similar to a mortgage as long as you prioritize paying the debt on a regular basis. This metaphor along with the connection of bugs and production issues helped cement the need for better engineering practices in their mind

3. Concrete practice: At this point, I asked them to choose from the listed engineering practices and the benefits to their product, pick one or two practices they would adopt, discuss and share with a partner on their table.

4. Conclusion: The executives communicated back the improvements they would take back to their product owners.

This presentation helped them make a quick connection to the current state of their products, taught them a concept using a metaphor, helped them make a decision on one or two improvements and make a decision on communicating them with their team.

I would love to get your comments, suggestions and ideas on your executive presentation techniques