“Debt? What are we talking about now! We all know what debt is, duh!” Wait wait, hear me out. In the financial world, debt is money owed to a creditor. In software development however, technical debt refers to the idea that organizations might incur significant, unforeseen costs up front. Especially when they choose a quick or crude solution to a software problem over a thorough, robust one.
Just like financial debt, technical debt can accumulate interest if not addressed in time. Makes sense, right?
The term “technical debt” first appeared in 1992 in an article by programmer Ward Cunningham. He explained that while an organization may initially save money with some “quick and dirty” coding, over time, “interest” from the debt will accrue. This in turn will make any initial issues in the software more and more expensive to resolve.
Indeed, recent research bears this out. A McKinsey study involving 220 CIOs estimated that 10% to 20% of their technology budgets for new products is actually allocated to resolving tech debt-related problems. What’s more, research suggests that software developers spend, on average, 1 day each week just managing technical debt.
So you see, technical debt can cost you heavily–both in terms of time and money. So, it’s time to get on top of your technical debt as early as possible. And no better time to start than now!
Reach out to expert software developers at TheCodeWork and iron out any kinks in your code before they turn into a massive IT issue!
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And now, let’s take a deeper look into what technical debt is all about, and why it’s important to keep track of it at all times.
What is technical debt? – Let’s revise a bit
In today’s fast-paced tech environment, time is of the essence. Projects have to be completed as fast as possible. Software needs to be delivered within strict deadlines. Competition has to be outpaced immediately! You get the gist, right….?
However, as software teams race against time to deliver software on time, developers often have to make some quick decisions:
Either take the easier, faster route, which consists of messier code that does the job for now,
Or take the more time-consuming path to come up with perfect, clean code
Oftentimes, developers take one–or a few–shortcuts to finish a project on time. This can result in crude code that needs to be ‘cleaned up’ later. And that’s where technical debt comes in!
In software development, this term encompasses just about everything— from bugs (or features – *winks*) to inadequate documentation to legacy code.
Technical debt is like cleaning the house minutes before guests come over. You shove everything under the sofa, cram all your clothes into the closet. So the house looks tidy for the time being, but nothing is in its proper place. Eventually, you will have to invest time and effort to re-organize everything in order to find what you are looking for. And the longer you put it off, the harder it gets! Do you see where I am going with this?
But how can you avoid ending up with a huge technical debt backlog? Well, the key is to stay up to date on any technical debt you may have accumulated during the software development process.
And then revisiting it as soon as possible–with a team of software developers who are experienced in refactoring code–like our expert programmers at TheCodeWork!
See, there may be numerous causes of technical debt. Some businesses choose to take on some debt voluntarily in exchange for quicker delivery. Others, on the other hand, must deal with unplanned debt brought on by shifting market realities and business objectives.
Allow me to walk you through.
1. Inadequate information
Sometimes, the team working on developing the software lacks the information needed to pinpoint the best technical fixes for issues. In such circumstances, they decide on a short – term working solution. This allows them to buy some time, collect user feedback, and more data required to create a better alternative solution.
Pro Tip: Invest in building an efficient team. If not, outsource from the best – TheCodeWork.
2. Shifting business objectives
Business objectives frequently change midway through a software development project. It’s just part of the process. As a result, priorities may change or new requirements may be added. In some cases, the entire product strategy might change too! The fallout of this is that previous technical solutions might become outdated, therefore creating technical debt.
Overly strict deadlines or limited resources are some of the main reasons why developers need to take shortcuts to deliver on time. But don’t worry, this is not that difficult to catch up on later (I’ll discuss some strategies too in this article).
Depending on what caused the debt in the first place, there might be a variety of risks to the software project. Let’s take a look at the risks attached with too much technical debt, shall we?
How does technical debt cost businesses?
As already said before, technical debt needs to be paid off on time and according to plan, just like financial debt. If not, it might accumulate and have a cascading effect that makes it more difficult to manage later.
The following are some typical dangers linked to ignoring or improperly managing tech debt:
Increased difficulty in innovation and scaling performance
Conflicting and overlapping technologies
Higher costs for development and software upkeep
Reduced usability and security dangers
Increased bug counts and challenges in solving new issues
The longer you leave the debt unpaid, the more difficult and expensive it will be to deal with it later. That is quite obvious, right?
So how can you manage technical debt effectively? Well, I’d suggest you come up with a foolproof strategy for reducing technical debt (more on this coming up soon!).
Prevent your tech debt from consuming valuable resources that you’d otherwise use to advance the system!
Discuss debt-reduction strategies with experts specializing in technical debt management at TheCodeWork.
Good debt vs. Bad debt: Is all technical debt bad?
At this point, you might be wondering: why would qualified programmers produce code that needs to be rewritten at all? Well, that’s because, just like financial debt, technical debt can be applied in both positive and negative ways. It can be a helpful tool, for instance, in a
or if a crucial software feature needs to be released to the market right away
In fact, technical debt allows developers to rapidly innovate today while also giving breathing room for improvements tomorrow. In other words, careful planning around short-term “hacky fixes” can lead to longer-term success. By allowing developers more leeway as far as experimentation goes inside a relatively restricted timeline.
In addition to that, it’s an excellent opportunity for learning more about the company systems and refining development processes so they work better over the long term.
Of course, the key is to keep track of how much technical debt you’re taking on. Always plan back into your development budget sufficient funds (or hours) to pay off any accrued debts as soon as possible. Before they become too large a burden on future projects or innovation efforts.
Keeping up with regular maintenance will reduce risk by limiting unexpected surprises such as downtime or data loss – making for happier bosses, customers, developers… everyone, really! So why wait? Take those steps now to manage your company’s technical debt responsibly and avoid unnecessary headaches (and expensive bills) later down the line.
Need an expert eye to keep your technical debt in check? Reach out to expert developers at TheCodeWork to get a headstart on managing your debt now!
And now, let’s take a brief look into the best practices to manage technical debt.
Best ways to manage technical debt
If managed properly, dealing with technical debt doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, taking on a few small tasks may actually help save more money than avoiding them altogether over a long period of time.
Here are some tips when it comes to troubleshooting:
Step 1: Recognize and comprehend your debt
The first step in creating a successful debt reduction strategy is recognizing the debt and understanding its origins. You must determine how the debt originally came to be at this stage.
You might want to consider the following questions at this stage:
Was it done on purpose or by mistake?
Did the technical debt originate from the project’s evolving goals, scope, or technology?
Was it avoidable?
By answering these questions, you can find out more about the type of debt you have and how to get rid of it in the future.
Step 2: Analyze and measure
Technical debt can be somewhat difficult to measure. There is no one metric that can fully capture the scope of technical debt. Then how can you analyze how much technical debt you have? Well, the answer is to quantify its second order effects.
And by that I mean you have to measure the impact of technical debt on your other, measurable business metrics:
Iteration times: Technical debt may slow down development (for instance, due to the increasing complexity of the code). So measuring the amount of work completed from iteration to iteration may help reveal the effect of tech debt on team performance.
Number of bugs: You can determine how well you are controlling your technical debt by keeping track of when your engineers are fixing software bugs. For instance, if there are more unresolved bugs than closed ones, it’s time to make some adjustments.
Code Churn: This metric keeps track of how frequently a specific line of code has been replaced, rewritten, or deleted. Of course, some churn is unavoidable when you’re developing a new feature of your product. However, if you observe high churn over an extended period of time in any area, it’s likely that hasty fixes are being made in that area.
Frustrated developers: Now this must sound like a no-brainer. Nevertheless, if you notice your engineers becoming more and more dissatisfied with a particular system in comparison to others, watch out. Because that system may be riddled with more tech debt than others.
Noticed one or more of these warning signs in your organization? Maybe it’s time to get an expert opinion–from those in the know! So reach out to TheCodeWork to get a better look into the health of your code!
Step 4: Regularly review running code and development processes
How can you rein in your technical debt without hindering current progress? One of the most effective tactics is to break down the extra work’s scope into more manageable milestones. Small steps at a time, you see?
You can then integrate it gradually into the regular workflow to pay it off.
This strategy will aid your team in maintaining control over the technical debt and ensuring that it decreases over time.
Sometimes, developers refer to any type of subpar code as “tech debt.” However, that is a grave misuse of the term. In fact, this oversight reduces the usefulness of tech debt. When managed effectively, tech debt can boost a company’s agility, adaptability, and speed of execution.
On the flip side, poorly managed or incorrectly implemented tech debt principles can all develop into serious issues. Like stalled development cycles that only get worse as more debt piles up. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?
Obviously, you wouldn’t want that to happen in your company! So don’t hesitate to take action: start exploring deeper ways of incorporating strategies to prevent too much tech debt buildup. And if you feel your technical debt getting out of hand, consult experts immediately!
Remember: TheCodeWork’s tech team is here for any tech problems you might be facing, always. So drop us a text anytime you want! We have got your back.
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