Of course your JIRA backlog keeps growing. It’s math.

Programmers generally understand mathematical limits. At least in terms of “Big O” notation for complexity, even if they don’t love digging into mathematical formalisms about limits from Calculus class. Some algorithms scale better than others. Knowing how things scale is an important part of being able to shout buzzwords like “Web Scale!” in meetings. Scaling organizations is at least as hard as scaling technology.

Stolen from Twitter.
We all learned what exponential growth is during the pandemic.

What is the limit of the logarithmic function log(t) as t approaches infinity? (The limit does not exist / infinity.)

What is the limit of the exponential function et as t approaches infinity? (The limit does not exist / infinity. But bigger than the log function.)

What is the limit of the constant function C as t approaches infinity? (The limit is C.)

And finally… It costs log(t) to remove an item from a queue. It costs C to add an item to that queue. What is the upper bound on storage required for that queue to hold all items as t approaches infinity?

Even junior developers have no problem answering these questions. But empirically, it seems like architects as team leads have no idea. People are often surprised at how much Jira queues tend to grow over time, and they don’t expect to have to scale organizations over time in the way that they scale technology. The math above is more than enough to explain why, in the long term, you will never ever catch up on your Jira queue. Let’s dig in.

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