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What is Technical Debt and Ways to Avoid It

Technical Debt and Ways to Avoid It

“Left unchecked, technical debt will ensure that the only work that gets done is unplanned work!” – Gene Kim

In the world of software development, the entire technical task force is known by the terminology – ‘technical debt’. The reason being all software teams incur technical debt along the way. As for software development, technical debt hints at the cost of more rework to be done because of reasons like shortcuts to solutions, fast fixtures, time-consuming projects, etc.

A technical debt can be compared to a financial debt, wherein if you don’t pay off the debt on time, it will keep accruing interest and make things difficult to manage. Companies tend to keep adding/updating applications with different technologies leading to a chaotic environment, where neither can they leave the technology, nor can they manage with it. It is a huge obstruction that decreases productivity and agility.

Through this detailed read, we attempt to showcase technical debt and how it can be tackled in the software development arena.

What is Technical Debt?

In software development, or any other IT field, technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt) is the implied cost of future reworking required when choosing an easy but limited solution instead of a better approach that could take more time. – Wikipedia

Technical debt, also called tech debt, design debt, or code debt, concerning the software development industry, refers to the hidden costs that are incurred due to inappropriate reasons like wrong design selection, development crosscuts, software errors, legacy code management, untimely resolution of issues, unnecessary speeding of delivery compromising on code quality, etc. It is basically, the measurement of the cost of redoing a solution due to multiple reasons.

Having a technical debt can deprive you and your team of the time, efforts, and costs involved in availing competency, innovation, agility, productivity, profitability, and growth for your organization. A technical debt, if not solved on time, keeps piling up and worsens over time. The longer it continues, the costlier it is to overcome the debt. Usually, it piles up performance, thinking that it can be worked upon later.

Technical debt consists of four major quadrants, to weigh focus, and analyze the type of code issues:

  • Reckless and deliberate – preferring fast delivery over good code production
  • Prudent and deliberate – delivering in a fast way with no importance to outcomes
  • Reckless and inadvertent – attempting to write the best code without the required skills
  • Prudent and inadvertent – wanting the ideal code but you get a better solution

Possible Scenarios – Why Does Technical Debt Occur?

Technical debt can occur due to multiple occurrences in a software project. Here are some of the key reasons why technical debt occurs:

  • Increase of delivery pressure by the business team not giving sufficient importance to technical suggestions leading to incomplete output
  • Lack of skilled resources lessening productivity
  • Lack of design excellence, code quality, and testing leading to poor productivity
  • Ambiguous project requirements leading to the reworking of code
  • Writing bad, ineffective, non-modular code without proper standards
  • Lack or delay in training developers with the latest technological advancements
  • Implementing new or unnecessary tools leads to the wastage of resources
  • Missing code documentation makes it difficult for new coders to understand
  • Information gaps between teams in case of lack of communication
  • Interoperability issues when legacy and new systems coincide
  • Fastening the development process to fulfill deadlines compromising on quality
  • Making use of obsolete technologies that are no longer supported

How to Avoid? : Key Means to Avoid Technical Debt

To keep your organization safe from technical debt, you must be proactive and alert. You may not be able to avoid it, since it is a natural process but if you are well-guarded in advance, you may be able to save your organization from losses.

Here are certain best practices and guidelines that must be followed for secure, safe, and profitable software development:

  • Build Detailed and Proper Documentation

There must be thorough documentation prepared at each stage of the project, so that anything and everything new, is known and there is no risk of having issues in the future. Not only must it be created, but it must also be maintained regularly.

  • Assign Responsibilities to Stakeholders for Monitoring Debt

On a general note, projects do not have responsibilities assigned for monitoring technical debt and hence it goes unnoticed. There must be resources who are responsible for watching all involved parameters that might lead to technical debt. They, together in conjunction with the project leaders and managers, must be wary of a technical debt arising in terms of delay in projects, oversizing, lack of resources, poor quality, etc.

  • Adapt the Latest Project Execution Methodologies

It is advisable to go in for modern-day project execution approaches like DevOps and Agile, instead of the traditional methods like waterfall and iterative. These practices help you and your project aim towards a common objective with team collaboration. It also assists in integrating and embedding changes with ease.

  • Value Quality and Delivery More Than Time and Money

The entire goof-up of technical debt is mostly because stakeholders give more importance to time and money rather than going in for the best quality and delivery. This compromises on quality and leads to issues, especially when the project is not completely tested. Companies must set deadlines reasonably keeping in mind all obstacles that could come along the way.

  • Always Have an Annual Maintenance Plan

Most problems arise when there is no regular planning for maintenance and updates. In case of annual maintenance in effect, it is easier to foresee the upcoming updates and errors well in advance to fix them on time and avoid any tech debt.

  • Leverage Low Code Platforms

Implementing low-code platforms can help in lessening manual coding and time to market. It brings about agility to the entire software development lifecycle by modernizing legacy systems, choosing appropriate technology stacks, lessening dependency on the IT staff, enhancing IT governance, and reducing dependency on third-party applications.

  • Track and Manage Technical Debts Through a Tracking System

Whenever you come across a technical debt, you must maintain it in a proper tracking system with all details, including required steps to be taken and estimated timelines. That debt must be tracked regularly to completion so that it is not neglected and does not pile up later. Debts that remain unsolved over a longer period must be attended to, with priority.

Winding It Up

Technical debt is bound to occur but the effect of it on the software development arena can be managed well with proactive measures as mentioned above. The problems arise when you don’t attend to the technical debt issues and imagine them getting solved on their own, with time. What happens is the reverse. It keeps getting deeper and denser with time, leading to difficult situations.

It is wise to have a set plan, well in advance and necessary action items decided so that whenever technical debt is encountered, you just analyze the problem and get going with the solution. This way, you can strike a balance between time, quality, and cost to save your software project from the wary of technical debt.

Atrina, as a capable digital transformation company, relies on standard frameworks and technicalities for all its software projects, identifying errors well in advance with the help of well-defined processes and modern-day technologies. It understands the nitty-gritty of the software industry, with ample experience in its kitty, and acts as a single-stop provider for any kind of technical debt solution that you are looking for.

Approach us and let us know your technical debt details. Our competent and specialized technology practitioners will work out a strategic plan to get you out of it, with ease and efficacy.

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