Technical Debt: How to Deal with It and Build High-Quality Software Products

COO & Co-Founder

Technical debt is a common problem for many development teams. Although it occurs very often, some companies incur it unconsciously, leading to serious business consequences. Sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s because the business consequences of making bad decisions are painful. Luckily, you can read about the main causes of technical debt and explore the best ways to manage it!

There are some proven ways to prevent and reduce technical debt. The first thing you need to do is understand the definition of this problem. What is technical debt, how does it affect your business, and how can you manage it wisely? Keep reading!

What Does Technical Debt Mean?

This term “technical debt” was coined by the famous American programmer Ward Cunningham. He invented the first wiki in 1995 and is one of the founders of Agile programming. Ward Cunningham presented the concept of technical debt by using an interesting metaphor, comparing the problem to financial debt. Although it allows you to move quickly and achieve your next goals accordingly, you have to pay it back at some point. If you don’t pay it back, you can easily get into trouble. To put it simply, the more debt you incur, the higher costs it generates.

From the software development perspective, technical debt means creating low-quality code and focusing on new functionalities rather than spending enough time delivering clean, well-structured code. When you don’t refactor existing code regularly, it becomes difficult to maintain in the future.

The pressure of the market, unrealistic deadlines, and high expectations often lead to producing code quickly without thinking about best practices or regular testing. If the main priority is development speed and pushing new features, technical debt is just around the corner.

We described the main problems arising from working with the legacy code in one of our previous articles. Today, let’s take a closer look at the reasons for the technical debt.

The Main Reasons for Technical Debt in Your Project

There are several reasons for technical debt. Some of them are easy to avoid, but even in more complicated cases, you can always take some actions to stop accruing more debt and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

The most important advice for preventing your project from incurring unplanned technical debt is to be aware of this problem and, when needed, manage it wisely. Remember that you can find room for improvement in every project, and the sooner you start dealing with the problem, the quicker you can get rid of it.

technical debt reasons

The most common reasons for technical debt are time pressure, bad planning processes, focusing on new solutions, choosing the cheapest solutions, and a lack of experience and skill.

  • Time pressure. The pressure to deliver a project as soon as possible and working under tight deadlines can lead to cutting corners and low-quality code. Implementing quick and easy solutions rather than good ones may lead to technical debt. The pressure put on the development teams can also demotivate developers, causing them to make bad decisions while programming. In the long run, time pressure can delay the whole project and make it difficult to eliminate bugs conveniently.
  • Focusing on new solutions. Prioritizing new solutions over optimizing the whole project and running tests won’t bring benefits to the project. Taking care of the code’s quality from the very beginning is crucial because refactoring in the later stages is difficult and time-consuming. Deadlines and pressure to deliver the product as soon as possible often prevent developers from code refactoring.
  • Choosing the cheapest solutions. If you decide to choose cheap and simple solutions, it might be difficult to change to better ones in the later stages of the project. Sometimes cheap solutions are a trap—you don’t pay much at the beginning, but then you have to deal with problems, errors, and a lack of flexibility when trying to scale your app effectively.
  • A lack of experience and skills. Low development skills and ineffective methodologies are another source of technical debt. When your team uses the wrong methods and doesn’t follow programming best practices, they significantly increase the risk of errors.

The effects of having technical debt

The main effect of technical debt is an increase in bugs, slower project development, and problems with application performance, 

What impact can technology debt have on other company operations?

For example, it can:

  • Reduce your ability to innovate and implement new ideas. Trying something new is hard when you’re investing in fixing something old.
  • Make it harder to respond to competitive threats. Your technical debt limits your ability to adapt and change quickly to compete.
  • Lead to operational problems such as crashes, miscalculations, loss of productivity due to performance degradation, and security breaches, ultimately halting the project.
  • Increase staffing problems. It can be challenging to find developers willing to work with older technologies if they can work with the latest technologies for the competition.

Outdated processes and systems can increase the implementation and production costs, resulting in reduced profits. Older technology can also increase employee frustration and ultimately lead to staff shortages or, worse, create customer dissatisfaction.

 Dealing with technology debt requires a lot of time and money, so it’s better to think about it in advance as to how to avoid falling into such a trap.

How to Prevent Technical Debt

First, you need to be aware of such a problem from the very beginning. Knowing the consequences technical debt leads to makes it much easier to deal with the problem. So what can you do?

  • Deliver good-quality code and well-structured architecture using proven solutions. You don’t necessarily need the fastest ones, but flexible and chosen wisely. They should help you to scale the application in the future or implement all needed changes easily.
  • Test the application. Do it regularly to identify any errors and use code refactoring as a tool to fight technical debt. Regular code reviews should also be an important part of your software development process.
  • Plan your project accordingly. Proper software development planning is the key to success. You should plan for both refactoring and developing new functionalities. Focusing on the second aspect only may lead to technical debt.
  • Convince the business side why it’s worth preventing debt. From a business perspective, running tests may not seem to bring visible results, such as desirable functionalities. However, these practices reduce bugs and ensure good quality and a strong performance in the future.

Ideas for Reducing Technical Debt

If you incur technical debt, you can still improve your situation and start managing it. I don’t recommend rewriting the entire application from the very beginning. (If you’re planning to do that, double-check to make sure that decision is the best solution.) In the initial stage, it’s better to analyze the problem and identify the most problematic part of the project. You can start with a code review and identify the most problematic areas.

It might be a good idea to break your application down into logical smaller parts that will be refactored separately. After doing that, you can create a plan for what to do to improve the situation. You may be able to rewrite some parts of the application and implement other necessary changes step by step in strategic places.

By reducing technical debt, you will improve your project and build scalable, well-structured products and stay more competitive in the market. It is possible to deal with technical debt quickly, but it requires a thorough understanding of the problems and difficulties, so it is best to plan the entire process step by step.

If you need a consultation on technical debt and want to boost your project, just reach out! We will advise you on choosing the best solutions.

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