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What is Technical Debt and How to Reduce Yours?

Palina Trokhautsava's Picture
Palina Trokhautsava

You might accumulate technical debt in your company without even realizing it. Discover where technical debt is hiding and how to manage it.

All of us strive for business optimization. We look for new practices to improve the general performance, reduce costs, and boost our effectiveness. However, sometimes it happens that troubles grow snowballs.

You start a software development project at length, work thoroughly on every feature, and suddenly discover an issue to deal with when you run out of time. What happens next? You most likely start fixing it, cutting corners in other tasks, which causes more problems. You have too many destructions but the clock is ticking. This is how your technical debt accumulates.

Let’s discover what you can do with that before a snowball turns into an avalanche.

Technical Debt: Meaning

The main idea of technical debt is that during software development you postpone some tasks to meet a deadline but inevitably face the consequences of the work undone, which consumes even more of your resources and time.

When you intend to add a new function to a software solution, you can either work fast, leaving a messy code, or spend more time but deliver a quality code. The choice is not that obvious, especially when you’re limited in time.

Software development is often a compromise between a good-enough product and a perfect one. However, perfection stays unattainable, and sometimes all we can do is to accept carrying some debt. The limits are crucial, though.

According to a McKinsey survey, 60% of Chief Information Officers admit that technical debt in their companies has risen significantly over the past three years. If you feel that the issues of technical debt can not be ignored, let’s continue to figure out ways of dealing with it.

Types of Technical Debt

Technical specialists distinguish certain types of technical debt that reveal the reasons for its emergence. To begin with, technical debt can be deliberate when you leave something undone as described above and accidental if you miscalculated something. Unavoidable technical debt is a separate category from which no development team can consider itself immune. For example, a coding language can become outdated that will make it harder to bring the necessary changes to the product.

Other types of technical debt are the following:

  • Duplication. You leave code lines that mean more or less the same thing. When a bug arises in one place, it can also emerge in another place so that it would be difficult to trace and fix it.
  • Lack of Tests. Any code is supposed to be protected with tests, otherwise, you can not trust in its quality and make further changes.
  • Lack of Technical Documentation. Technical documentation is crucial to make a code understandable and subject to further changes.
  • Lack of Automation. Leaving multiple manual steps can entail human errors.
  • Poor Structure. If a code is poorly structured, it is hard to grasp what module is responsible for what.

How to Manage Technical Debt: Best Practices

Identify the Cause

If you have an ongoing project and understand that something is holding you back, analyze the reasons. When you detect the cause of the problem, discuss it with the team members responsible for that area. For example, if you set short terms and hard deadlines, software developers may be ruled by time pressure and leave a messy code. So, if it is not a case of necessary evil, you can alter your planning or operational process for the sake of technical debt reduction.

Create a Clear Assessment Criteria of Done

The definition of “done” means a lot. When you complete the coding part, it can be tempting to declare the work done. However, it’s not over without proper testing. The rule is fair for various activities: review a job done. The time costs should be included in your project plan. Set the right standards.

Talk to Your Team

A motivated and conscious team is one of the powerful resources to reduce technical debt. Motivate people to maintain quality standards and remunerate them, if needed. For example, start measuring the number of bugs fixed or updates to draw attention to the issue. Such activities will encourage mutual help, attention to detail, and promote a favorable corporate culture.

Adhere to Agile Development

When you apply the principles of Agile, technical debt becomes a manageable thing in an ongoing manner. Repeated iterations and rapid change when needed allow fixing bugs quickly without accumulating problems. Also, Make sure that all the deferred tasks are part of your product backlog to keep transparency.

Don’t Leave Technical Debt to Fate

The practices we shared here can prevent your business from technical debt distress. However, if you feel that you can not handle it in your current project, Fively team can come to the rescue. We can assume software development or provide consulting services for your company.

Save your nerves and budget, and let snowballs be a funny winter activity but not a part of your project plan.

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Palina Trokhautsava's Picture

Hello! I'm Palina, a content specialist at Fively. In my well-penned articles, you can find many exciting things about modern web development and IT business.

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