Technical debt is like any other debt; for example, you need something now but don’t have the cash. So, you take on debt. Similarly, when you need to deliver a code that you don’t have the time to build, at least not in the most efficient way, you take the easy way out, keeping the time-consuming stuff for later. This is how technical debt gets started.
Technical debt is the casualty when facing the trade-off between speed and the perfect code. It is a tool and can be instrumental in ensuring that your product reaches the market on time.
The drawback of technical debt is that it inevitably decreases the agility of your code. According to the metaphor, it will require you to spend time and resources; this is the interest you will have to pay later for the debt you incur now.
While it is true that a clean, well-designed code built to the best it can be will let you work on innovations and future iterations more efficiently, it is not always feasible. The deadlines and the timeline that need to be followed will not let you build the perfect code. Instead, you will have to compromise, and the question is whether this compromise is strategic or not.
Is tech debt bad? Well, not ALWAYS. It just has a bad reputation.
It depends on what is the most important thing at a given point. Sometimes the most important thing is to bring the product directly out to the customers, and the time could be the difference between success or an epic failure.
We can reduce the negative impact of technical debt by spending time and energy on parts of the code that need agility and compromising on the parts that don’t.
As long as it is planned and not accidental, it should be fine.
The complexity of the technical debt you face comes down to one question. Is the debt defined or undefined? It should be easy to plan if it is defined and you know what it takes to fix it, the expected ending, and the number of hours you need to get there. On the other hand, it can get a little complicated if the work is undefined.
Care should be taken to break down the task into small manageable ones that can be delegated and worked on. This will keep your team motivated to clear the technical debt.
Having a clear idea of why it is essential to clear the technical debt will give your team perspective when they spend long hours working on a code that already works (sort of).
Sometimes clearing technical debt will not immediately reflect in essential company metrics. In cases like this, letting all stakeholders, both on the business and technical side, know of the significance of the work and the difference they are creating is vital for morale and streamlining expectations.
Sometimes, the business needs to override creating the best possible code. In this case, the developers face pressure to release products faster, or there might be a need to cut the development cost.
Sometimes, technical debt occurs naturally. Over time you will need to upgrade your code. But if the new developers aren’t aware or don’t take the time to understand the original design of the code, it results in technical debt.
When deliberate technical debt occurs, sufficient planning must be done to tackle the debt before the interest becomes even higher. If it isn’t done, the delay can further affect the performance of your product.
Testing must be done before the product reaches the customers, and any bugs that arise need to be fixed. The testing team might figure out specific problems that need to be specified here. If it isn’t done satisfactorily, your customers will have to deal with the faulty code.
Every code has an initial design, which needs to be appropriately documented so any work on it can be done smoothly. Lack of proper documentation, lack of skilled developers, and other resource constraints might lead to technical debt.
The code will not remain perfect for long; the requirements change over time. The systems may get outdated, and updates become necessary and inevitable.
All debt is not equal, and when making strategic decisions, you must know what tech debt you can live with and what you have to avoid.
Sometimes developers know the right way to develop a code, and they also see the time that will take, and they decide not to do that. Instead, they take the quick route to get the code to the customer faster. Thus, they make a deliberate move to incur technical debt to deliver the product quickly. This is called Deliberate technical debt. All stakeholders need to be informed of this, and steps should be taken to address and keep this from becoming a bigger debt.
It might turn into accidental design debt if it is left to accumulate.
This debt is not deliberate; it occurs as time moves on. Your code might work for you now, but a year from now, you might notice that your design isn’t working anymore, and implementing something new might become harder and slower. In this case, it is essential to go back and refractor, and it will help to future-proof your designs so that this might be a little easier.
This is the type of technical debt you need to avoid. It happens when many people who might not know the original design work on a code. Over time the code gets complicated because it has been through many incremental changes.
You can avoid this by ensuring that every time someone needs to change or build a code, they take the time to understand the design before proceeding. Any bad code that exists needs to be cleaned up along the way so the system can be coherent and easy to upgrade.
As much as technical debt gives you a benefit now, It’s the deal you are making, and much like the devil, it always comes to collect. So how do you tackle the debt you already have and not let it drag your productivity to hell?
There are two ways to tackle/manage technical debt.
To handle or manage technical debt, the trick is to strike the right balance between the time you spend, the quality you deliver, and the cost you incur. You need to pick the right debt to pay off now, the debt that you can live with, and what you never want as a debt in the first place.
The way products are being developed has been consistently changing. Organizations are looking to empower their employees, and they are looking to nurture citizen developers. At the same time, bringing products to market quickly has never been more critical. Both these scenarios increase the chances of technical debt, making it crucial for companies to develop a strategy to deal with technical debt.
Some of the other best practices that you can implement now so you can breathe a bit freely tomorrow are M+M+F= Manage+ Minimize+ Fight
Agile methodologies might come in handy while dealing with technical debt. It focuses on the continued development of a project. Iterations of the work are consistently done, so any technical debt is promptly addressed and doesn’t pile up, leading to a bigger payoff later.
It gives IT teams the ability to monitor and work on technical debts in short bursts of work. This will go a long way in reducing it in the long run.
If you want to make your life even easier, you can go in for no-code app development. This will ensure that the coding is at its best. On top of that, it drastically cuts down the time your developers take to code, freeing them up for any other work that might be accumulated. And most importantly, no-code platforms give anyone the freedom to develop apps, so there will be no miscommunication about what is expected from the IT team.
Technology by its very nature changes, which means at some point, you will need to change your code, upgrade it, rework it, and so on. The inevitable conclusion is that context matters when determining if technical debt is good or bad. And there is no correct answer regarding determining the right amount. As long as strategic decisions are taken, and the stakeholders aren’t ignorant, technical debt can be kept from seriously affecting your productivity.
Quixy wins Excellence in Information Technology Award from FTCCI