Tracking technical debt is a perennial topic in software delivery organizations. What is technical debt and what is not? How do you prioritize it? And most importantly, how do you express the value of paying it off to your internal stakeholders? Following the Agile Manifesto’s manner of reasoning — "while there is value in the item on the right, we value the item on the left more" — we like the idea of tracking health over debt. The folks at REA in Australia share a good example of what such health tracking can look like. They track system ratings in the categories of development, operations and architecture.
Focusing on health instead of debt is a more constructive framing. It connects a team to the ultimate value of reducing debt and helps them prioritize it. Every piece of tackled technical debt should ideally be connectable to one of the agreed expectations. Teams should treat the health rating the same as other service-level objectives (SLOs) and prioritize improvements whenever they drop out of the "green zone" for a given category.