Technical debt (TD) or code debt is a concept in software development that defines the cost of additional restructuring resulting from opting for an easier solution rather than going for a better approach that takes more time. If the technical debt is not fixed, it will become worse, making it difficult to implement the changes later. Unresolved technical debt may result in software entropy. Experts define technical debt as an outcome of incorrect or inappropriate technical decisions, which later lead to problems related to system maintenance and expansion.
Here are some major reasons or causes that normally lead to technical debt:
Sometimes businesses make decisions without proper knowledge or understanding and this can result in increased technical debt. Various resources may need necessary corrections later. In other cases, a developer writes code without enough knowledge, which then causes unexpected complications. Or even more, outsourced work appears to be substandard and needs to be rebuilt further down the line. All these are the nature of the technical debt.
Sometimes certain requirements that were compatible with the initial system may no longer be appropriate or the technology you use may have gotten out of date. It may demand changing the technology stack or tools.
Technical debt happens when there is inappropriate documentation in the initial concept. People won’t be able to explain what needs to be done and why something needs to be done. If you cannot include sufficient resources and lack test automation in this equation, there emerges technical debt.
The most intricate cause of technical debt is the team/people. This is not to blame or point fingers at people, but to analyze the best thing human resources can do. If your team of developers is inexperienced, the communication between available teams is inefficient, or sources transfer from project to project – all these can get you stuck in technical debt.
If an organization wants to reduce technical debt, it has to find out the source and the root cause of the debt. Some of the common causes of technical debt include:
Once the source of the technical debt is identified, companies can rearrange their technological approaches and institutional mindset to reduce technical debts.
Now, let’s talk about some tips that may help your organization to reduce technical debt.
Organizations often take out technical debt without being aware of it. However, there comes a point where technical debt no longer remains an achievement but becomes a painful problem that creates many problems. The sooner you acknowledge it, the faster and cheaper it will be to reduce your technical debt. As mentioned before, fix the debt before it becomes too much to deal with.
Identifying the source is an important factor in reducing technical debts. Without finding the source, you won’t be able to find the reasons or causes behind the debt. Once the source of the technical debt is analyzed by the team via interviews and surveys, the team will be able to identify insufficient time as one of the main causes of technical debt. IT team members, who face strict time limits, adopt custom coding point-to-point integrations to get projects into the business faster. Here the team works under pressure and justifies the short-sighted approach in order to satisfy business needs and that results in generating more technical debt. Here, the IT team identifies the source, and lack of time, as the main cause of the technical debt, hence finding the first way to reduce technical debt.
Now the team is already aware that the custom point-to-point integration is the root of the problem. If they intend to reduce technical debt, they need to opt for a new integration method that works long-term. A new technology that motivates the team to deliver the projects within a short period, on or before time, while developing a long-term view for upcoming projects.
Technical debt assessment is important for both tech executives and decision-makers in the organization. First of all, it gives proper visibility and enables you to communicate the problem. It puts a price on a problem to show how it may affect the project and explain why paying a debt in time is important. Secondly, analyzing cost-benefits helps to better prioritize and plan the payment strategy.
One of the most effective strategies is to split up the additional work into smaller milestones and gradually integrate them into a regular workflow and pay them off. This approach allows the team to avoid any chance for technical debt without interrupting the ongoing process and ensures that it becomes less over time.
Businesses should develop a standard coding document for developers that explains the best practices to follow. When proper coding standards and best practices are strictly followed by developers, it can significantly reduce technical debt.
To resolve any problems easily and appropriately, it is best to keep a continuous record of changes in a collection shared by a team. That way, if there is a problem, it will be easy to find the source. This is a very important process when migrating software or upgrading legacy software to a new environment, where changes must be made very carefully so as not to affect other system parts.
Even if you have a legacy system or are developing a new one, it is impossible to avoid technical debt. This is a complex issue that all organizations have to deal with. Irrespective of its character, it is important to notice its presence, document it, and spend money on it. You should be honest and eloquent with the development teams and stakeholders on this issue.