What is Technical Debt and How to Manage it?

Updated 25 Jan 2024
Published 24 Jan 2024
Gaurav Sharma 1242 Views
What is Technical Debt and How to Manage it?

Software development is a multi-step, highly intricate process with a lot of preparation, coordination, and cooperation involved.

Shortcuts are frequently used to complete tasks quickly when software development is allocated an inadequate budget or amount of time.

This might be effective in the short run, but in the long run, the extra expense will cause problems. We refer to these expenses as technical debt. This debt can accumulate over time, just like financial debt.

Additionally, it may burden the software maintenance team if improperly handled.

What is Technical Debt?

The price paid for short-term cost-cutting is known as technical debt. When they are solely engaged in the current run, agile teams can produce more of it than is necessary.

A solution’s performance decreases considerably when the team accumulates excessive technical debt as time goes on.

Technical debt is the result of decisions made throughout the development process that lead to less-than-ideal code or layout options. These decisions are frequently motivated by constraints or the desire for quick fixes.

Technical debt is the price paid to rewrite code that, because of limitations, didn’t match the desired standard. In MVP software development, reducing technical debt is an essential procedure.

Types of Technical Debt

1- Intentional technical debt:

This is what happens when teams purposefully aim for a quick but shoddy implementation to get input from customers or establish a foothold in the quickly evolving industry.

Companies that create CRM software and have tight deadlines for product launches are intentional technical debt examples.

2- Unavoidable technical debt:

There are instances where the development teams and the organization as a whole have no control over technological debt. It often highlights significant technological advancements or adjustments to the sector.

Upgrades to third-party systems, sophisticated CRM development services, the release of new programming languages, or whole new, never-before-seen technologies are all good examples.

3- Environmental Technical Debt:

Large businesses often incur it due to the inability to upgrade their hardware or software, or for software that is impossible to replace.

A development team may be forced to use an outdated, unsupported version of a programming language, which could lead to difficult-to-maintain code.

What factors lead to technical debt?

The choice to not find a solution to an issue results in technical debt. Examples of software development issues that can result in technical debt include the following:

  • Uncertain Project:

Technical debt may result from a lack of clarity regarding the aims and purposes of the software development process. Development teams produce ineffective outputs when they fill in the blanks with assumptions after receiving insufficient information about the project’s objectives.

  • Bad code:

When code lacks adequate standards, it becomes more difficult to update it later. Later on, it may be more difficult to combine non-modular programming with other code.

  • Insufficient documentation:

When programmers have to reacquaint themselves with the codebase, it can be challenging to revisit or update code due to missing or erroneous documentation.

  • Outdated Technologies:

Using antiquated tools or technologies can cause development teams to accrue technical debt over time. Then, as a temporary solution, they can put in place a caching mechanism. However, the caching mechanism requires upkeep, which raises the website’s total cost.

  • Less testing:

Code releases without adequate testing might result in performance issues that need to be patched or fixed, which is known as technical debt.

How is Technical Debt measured?

One of the first and most crucial steps in dealing with technical debt is measuring and improving its metrics. This will help to eliminate several issues, including weaker security, decreased productivity, budget drains, business operations disruptions, and decreased work quality.

The speed at which DevOps, Scrum, and Agile team software development frameworks operate necessitates the management of technological debt to prevent quality loss.

1. Open vs. Closed Issues

In essence, each known defect represents a tiny bit of technical debt. Your engineers must maintain a record if you wish to know how much debt you have overall.

You can figure out how well you are managing your technical debt, assuming that your engineers log in when issues are fixed. You must adjust if the quantity of newly reported bugs exceeds that of closed bugs.

2. Performing User Surveys

User input and surveys are two more methods of measuring technical debt. Development teams can gain a better understanding of potential areas for software enhancement by interviewing consumers about their experiences with the product.

Users complaining about the system lagging, for instance, maybe a sign of ineffective algorithm use.

3. Code Explanation

The code coverage metric, in a way, approaches the same problem from the other side. Here, you are tracking the percentage of your code that is run during a test suite execution.

This shows you how well your code has been written; the greater the number of lines that are not being used, the more probable it is that your code has been written poorly.

Here, 80% is a reasonable goal percentage. A score below this suggests that there is still work to be done, while one above this is commendable.

4. Temporal Cycle

Software development life cycle is another measure that is directly related to code quality. Technically speaking, this counts the time that elapses between deployment and the first commit.

However, you must include the time required to modify the current code and find non-quick answers for issues when calculating technical debt.

You can be certain that there is technical debt present in your code if your engineers are spending hours debugging minor issues.

5. Ratio of technical debt

The ratio of the expense of fixing the codebase to that of building it is called the technical debt ratio (TDR). Businesses can calculate the cost in terms of money or time.

It can be useful to use a ratio when requesting business support. This assistance could take the form of extending the budget, easing the schedule, lowering the number of “must-have” features, or giving the teams tools and training.

How to manage technical debts?

There are many components to managing technical debt: paying it back by setting priorities, rewarding high-quality work, refactoring, and other measures; and avoiding technical debt from accruing in the first place. Thus, the idea goes beyond simply preventing the accrual of technical debt.

IT executives who effectively handle technical debt, on the other hand, are in a considerably better position to improve organizational performance.

Infrastructure and operational leaders can accomplish at least 50% better delivery of services to the company by aggressively managing and reducing technical debt, says research and consultancy firm Gartner.

1. Develop a common definition of technology debt:

A project needs a variety of viewpoints from the tech and commercial domains to flourish. However, because of these divergent points of view, managers and programmers have diverse definitions of what constitutes technical debt.

Business teams may view technology defects (TDs) mainly as the negative repercussions of technological failures on the company, which show up as longer time to market and increased operating expenses.

Within the tech world, TD lowers the caliber of design, testing, and programming. In actuality, everyone is right, but everyone should approach the matter with a grasp of the technical as well as the business ramifications of debt.

2. Construct procedures, establish benchmarks, and monitor:

Technical debt shouldn’t come as a surprise because it can occasionally be avoided. Determine how you will include tech debt work into your regular sprints or development periods, including the time allotted for it and the person in charge of the project.

One essential agile development technique for raising release quality is automated code testing. To evaluate code more quickly and identify bugs and other problems before they become tech debt, set up automation.

Agile metrics and KPIs are widely used by development teams to monitor code quality and establish benchmarks. A tech debt measurement will make it easier for you to track it.

Deeper insights into code and team performance can be obtained by tracking quality and throughput using agile tools and extensions.

All forms of product development work benefit from prioritization since it helps you concentrate on the tasks that will have the most influence.

Take a similar strategy to organize your technical debt and begin working on the highest-priority things first.

3. Determine Technical Debt:

Both top-down and bottom-up methods can be used to compute technical debt. The IT experts can determine the technical debt associated with IT infrastructure, architecture, procedures, and integration by using the top-down method.

IT professionals can compute and handle the incremental costs associated with system hardware variety using this method. The bottom-up method will assist in locating bugs, security flaws, and code quality issues. This technique weighs coding anomalies using a code scanner.

4. Describe reviews and code standards:

Code standards are sets of best practices, principles, and norms for programming. They make it easier for developers to construct understandable, clear code and to quickly handle any future changes that could be necessary.

Coding standards help to lower the total technological debt over time by defining and standardizing what constitutes a “good app.”

Developers check each other’s code for mistakes using a process called code review. This approach not only helps the team avoid problems but also fosters skill development and peer learning.

5. Maintain the quality of code:

Reducing technical debt is mostly dependent on maintaining clear, well-written code that is simple to update. This goes beyond simply adhering to best practices and coding standards, which are frequently determined by the technology being used.

It also involves deciding on certain guidelines that the development team should follow for the particular project. It involves following code formatting guidelines and standards (e.g., the number of characters in a line of code).

Through static code analysis, developers can maintain code cleanliness with a variety of linting tools at their disposal. You may discover tools to make the process easier, regardless of the programming language you choose to employ.

6. Rethink your approach to software development:

Rethinking the software development process, going over the original planning and development strategy, finding the weak places that compelled the software development team to take on technical debt, and filling in the gaps are the best ways to deal with technical debt.

The solution involves introducing new coding standards, facilitating frequent meetings with stakeholders and engineers, and developing a system for tracking technical debt.

7. Continuous Deployment and Integration (CI/CD):

Because CI/CD approaches facilitate early issue discovery, faster feedback loops, code quality enforcement, and iterative development, they are essential for decreasing technical debt. CI/CD prioritizes frequent and automated code change deployment, testing, and integration.

Develop a strong foundation for proactively tackling technical debt by integrating continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) into the development process. This will help you guarantee better code quality, quicker delivery, and more effective development procedures.

8. Advocate for maintenance inside the company:

A very simple answer is to set aside a specific percentage of development time for business-as-usual tasks like bug repairs, system upkeep, and technical debt, but organizational lobbying is required to make this a normal practice.

The stability of your application is continuously being undermined by technical debt, which is a nightmare that haunts the nightmares of your development team.

Stakeholders, however, may not be interested in hearing the rationale behind your decision to give an underlying architectural change precedence over a new feature that personally excites them more.

A good way to get people excited about debt-related activities is to spend some time explaining what happens when you ignore your technical debt.

9. Employ updated framework versions:

Refactoring the code may no longer be sufficient in certain situations because the technical debt has grown to the point where it is more economical and labor-efficient to completely rewrite the product.

Furthermore, updates are released every year or two for several enterprise-grade technologies that are decades old, like C and Microsoft.NET .

Upgrading to a new version if your software is using one of the older ones could be your best bet for cutting down on technical debt.

The best tips on handling Technical Debt

Managing technical debt is a difficult but crucial procedure since organizations risk making things worse by taking on debt they cannot afford to repay.

You may control tech debt in your company by implementing the following advice:

  • If management consistently reschedules development deadlines or modifies developer guidelines, tech debt becomes inevitable.
  • To keep tech debt in check, give developers reasonable workloads and deadlines.
  • Consider the upkeep of the product rather than only the release date.
  • Prioritize, track, and keep track of tech debt promptly.
  • Make explicit reference to technical debt in the sprint process.

How to reduce technical debt?

1. Identify the cause of debt

Recognize debt, estimate repayment time, and develop a strategy to reduce it effectively. Determine the origin of debt and make a strategy for technical debt reduction.

Was it accidental or deliberate? Was it brought on by shifting project objectives, scope, or technological advancements? Is there a way to prevent it?

You can better comprehend the nature of your debt and identify future strategies for reducing technical debt by providing answers to these questions.

Once the debt has been assessed and quantified, you may examine the risks and perform a cost-benefit analysis.

2. Decide on coding guidelines and schedule payback times

Put plans and processes in place to prevent the accumulation of technical debt. Just like with financial debt, you need to set pay-off periods—that is, designated days or hours when the team works on cleanup—to lower the debt.

It’s common practice to pay off the debt piece by piece, as opposed to attempting to do so all at once.

3. Refactor the code

Refactoring is a crucial agile approach in software development, allowing code changes without affecting functionality, making it a fundamental component of modern software development.

Refactoring, though, can be dangerous. Ultimately, you’re modifying previously functional code. Because it makes subsequent practices possible, test automation is the first activity on our priority list and is therefore crucial to the transition to CI/CD/DevOps.

4. Establish a culture of automated testing and code reviews for the future.

Automated tests are a crucial component here. This is the greatest technique to prevent defects, according to 99% of engineers. Automated testing is essentially a collection of discrete tests written as scripts to verify the system’s overall functionality and double-check the code.

To spot and resolve possible technical debt early in the development process, do routine code reviews. Code reviews facilitate knowledge sharing among team members, help identify problems, and guarantee adherence to code standards.

Use automated testing procedures to find bugs as soon as possible. This offers a safety net for refactoring and guarantees that modifications to the codebase don’t add more technical debt.

 5. Ownership of collective codes

Encourage a culture of collaborative code ownership, in which individuals on the team take ownership of the overall codebase’s quality and maintainability. This promotes accountability and teamwork in technical debt management.

How are Tech Debts handled?

  1. Determine which features or services are most in demand and most likely to change in the future.
  2. Agree to include quality considerations in the estimations. This guarantees that the group won’t hastily produce clumsy code.
  3. Create a technical backlog and allot a certain number of points to it every sprint to catch up.
  4. To help the product owner prioritize, document how resolving the technical debt would increase overall value.
  5. The team must ensure that the product owner’s worries about debt are aligned with the technical team’s understanding of debt.
  6. Everyone must agree on how to balance risk, value, and cost.

Methods for paying off technology debt

Technical debt repayment methods vary based on project size, complexity, available resources, and time frame, with tactics including:

Setting priorities: It involves determining the most urgent problems to take care of first and evaluating the effects of technological debt.

Repayment in gradual steps: Including technological debt repayment in the regular development process.

Dedicated sprints: Setting aside a certain number of sprints or cycles to settle technical debt.

Technical stories: Develop tasks or stories expressly for settling technical debt and ranking them in the sprint backlog according to priority.

Regardless of strategy, it’s critical to monitor technical debt and decide how and when to make repayments.

When not to pay back technical debt:

Repaying technical debt might not always be the wisest line of action. Cutting corners in design or execution to satisfy tight deadlines or financial restrictions results in the creation of technical debt.

To pay off technical debt, one must clean up or rework code, enhance architecture and design, and fix any problems that the shortcuts may have caused.

Repaying technical debt, however, might not always be the best use of available funds. As an illustration:

End of life: It’s not advisable to invest in paying off technical debt when software is nearing its end of life and is likely to be decommissioned or replaced.

Short-term priorities: The allocation of resources for paying off technical debt may not be feasible if urgent projects or initiatives require attention.

Limited resources: The company may struggle to cover its technical debt obligations if there are insufficient resources for software development.

Lack of impact: Repaying the technical debt right away might not be necessary if it has little effect on the software.

Managing technical debt with Agile:

The implied cost of extra labor associated with taking a quick cut in software development and neglecting outstanding problem fixes in favor of working on new features to meet launch dates is known as technical debt.

To put it simply, it has to do with the Agile methodology’s preference for incremental development over iterative development. Unfortunately, because it undermines long-term value, this strategy only provides temporary gains.

The changes that must be made to the features that have already been produced in the subsequent sprint cycles are prioritized in the product backlog, but they are frequently neglected.

Hire Technical Debt Management and Product Development Services

The crucial trait of a software development company is the capacity to reconcile software quality with project timelines, as this helps avoid accumulating technical debt while pursuing short-term objectives. They can also accomplish:

  • They are aware of the demands and difficulties facing your company
  • They are familiar with handling technical debt situations.
  • You will get timely and organized communications as the team operates remotely.
  • Because the team is knowledgeable about emerging technologies, the best solution is guaranteed.
  • Keep your technical debt in check. They assist you in keeping your current, imperfect technical solutions in check so that your business can concentrate on fresh innovations and concepts.

Conclusion

The success or failure of a program’s development can sometimes be determined by how successfully its technical debt is managed.

It is now essential for programmers and key administrators to understand tech debt and how to deal with it correctly due to the enormous dangers associated with it.

Gaurav Sharma

Gourav Sharma is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Arka Softwares, a leading web development company. He has 2 years of experience in the Information Technology industry. He spends his time reading about new trends in Digital Marketing and the latest app development technologies.

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