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Technical Debt
Quixy Editorial Team
February 22, 2024
Table of contents
Reading Time: 10 minutes

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.

Assumptions about Technical Debt

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.

Technical debt is not THAT complicated. 

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. 

There’s more to tech debt THAN product work. 

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. 

Also Read: Unleashing the potential of your existing IT systems

Causes of technical debt

Causes of technical debt

1. Business causes

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. 

2. Complex design

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. 

3. Delayed refactoring

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. 

4. Insufficient testing

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. 

5. Development causes

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. 

6. Context changes

The code will not remain perfect for long; the requirements change over time. The systems may get outdated, and updates become necessary and inevitable. 

Also Read: No-Code for Enterprises: How to crack every level?

Types of technical debt 

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.

Deliberate technical debt

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.  

Accidental debt 

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. 

Bit rot

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. 

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How to Manage Technical Debt? 

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 tech debt.  

  1. Keep your new projects from adding on to the tech debt. 
  2. Reduce the incurred debt in previous projects 

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 tech debt. 

Practices to tackle 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

1. General Measures to Manage Tech Debt

  • Keep a consistent record of debt as and when it is created
  • Hire high-quality developers and ensure they learn the design before making any changes to the code. Also, ensure code refactoring is done regularly so there is no accumulation
  • Use automated testing for your code  
  • Record all changes that you make  
  • Create a tech debt team so that the technical debt can constantly be kept in check and doesn’t get ignored

2. Agile practices to Minimize Technical Debt 

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. 

3. No-Code to Fight Technical Debt

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.

Strategies for Addressing Technical Debt in a Digital-First Environment

In a digital-first environment, addressing tech debt is crucial for organizations to maintain agility and drive innovation. To effectively manage technical debt, organizations can employ several strategies. Firstly, they need to prioritize and assess the extent of tech debt within their systems and applications. Once identified, a comprehensive plan should be established to address the debt systematically, setting clear goals and timelines. Refactoring and modernizing legacy systems, implementing continuous integration and deployment, and promoting regular code reviews and refactoring are essential steps. Investing in developer training and skills enhancement ensures teams can write clean, maintainable code.

Striking a balance between debt reduction and innovation is important, allocating resources for both. Collaboration between development and operations teams, monitoring and measuring technical debt, and adopting agile and DevOps practices further contribute to effective debt management. By implementing these strategies, organizations can reduce tech debt, improve system performance, and thrive in the digital-first landscape.

Managing tech debt is crucial to maintaining the health and sustainability of digital systems. Here are some effective strategies for addressing tech debt:

1. Prioritize Debt Reduction

Identify and prioritize areas of tech debt based on their impact on system performance, security, and maintainability. Allocate resources and time specifically for addressing high-priority technical debt items.

2. Incremental Refactoring

Break down large technical debt issues into smaller, more manageable tasks. Implement incremental refactoring efforts to gradually improve code quality and system architecture without disrupting ongoing development work.

3. Automated Code Analysis

Utilize automated code analysis tools to identify areas of code that contribute to technical debt. These tools can help pinpoint code smells, performance bottlenecks, and security vulnerabilities, allowing teams to address them proactively.

4. Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD)

Implement CI/CD pipelines to automate the build, testing, and deployment processes. By integrating automated testing and deployment procedures into the development workflow, teams can catch and address technical debt early in the development cycle.

5. Low-Code and No-Code Solutions

Leverage low-code and no-code platforms to rapidly develop and deploy applications with minimal manual coding. These platforms enable citizen developers and business users to contribute to application development, reducing the reliance on custom code and potentially lowering technical debt.

6. Technical Debt Backlog

Maintain a dedicated backlog for tracking and managing technical debt items. Regularly review and prioritize items in the backlog to ensure that technical debt is actively managed and addressed alongside new feature development.

7. Cross-Functional Collaboration

Foster collaboration between development teams, operations teams, and other stakeholders to collectively address technical debt. Encourage open communication and knowledge sharing to ensure that technical debt is understood and addressed holistically.

8. Invest in Training and Education

Invest in ongoing training and education for development teams to keep them up-to-date on best practices, emerging technologies, and industry standards. Empowering team members with the necessary skills and knowledge can help prevent the accumulation of technical debt.

9. Documentation and Knowledge Sharing

Maintain comprehensive documentation and promote knowledge sharing within the team. Documenting architectural decisions, design patterns, and lessons learned can help prevent the recurrence of technical debt and facilitate smoother collaboration across team members.

10. Regular Code Reviews

Conduct regular code reviews to identify and address potential sources of technical debt. Encourage peer review practices to promote code quality, consistency, and adherence to coding standards.

11. Strategic Planning and Governance

Implement strategic planning and governance processes to manage technical debt at the organizational level. Establish clear guidelines, policies, and decision-making frameworks to ensure that technical debt is addressed systematically and in alignment with business objectives.

How Quixy can help you Manage Technical debt?

Quixy offers a range of features and capabilities to help organizations effectively manage technical debt in their digital environments:

1. Visualize Technical Debt

Quixy provides visual tools and dashboards to help teams visualize and quantify technical debt across their applications and systems. By gaining insights into areas of high technical debt, organizations can prioritize and allocate resources more effectively.

2. Automated Code Analysis

With Quixy’s automated code analysis capabilities, organizations can identify and address code quality issues, performance bottlenecks, and security vulnerabilities. By integrating automated code analysis into the development process, teams can catch and remediate tech debt early on.

3. Low-Code Development

Quixy’s low-code platform enables rapid application development with minimal manual coding. By leveraging pre-built templates, reusable components, and drag-and-drop functionality, organizations can accelerate development cycles and reduce the risk of accumulating tech debt.

4. Incremental Refactoring

Quixy supports incremental refactoring efforts by allowing teams to improve code quality and system architecture iteratively. With features such as version control and rollback capabilities, organizations can safely refactor code without disrupting ongoing operations.

5. Collaboration and Documentation

Quixy facilitates collaboration among development teams, operations teams, and other stakeholders involved in managing tech debt. Through features such as real-time collaboration, commenting, and documentation, organizations can ensure that knowledge is shared and decisions are transparent.

6. Continuous Improvement

Quixy enables organizations to adopt a culture of continuous improvement by providing tools for tracking technical debt over time and measuring progress. By regularly monitoring and addressing technical debt, organizations can maintain the health and sustainability of their digital systems.

7. Integration with Existing Systems

Quixy seamlessly integrates with existing systems and tools, allowing organizations to leverage their investments in infrastructure and technology. By integrating with source code repositories, issue tracking systems, and CI/CD pipelines, organizations can streamline their technical debt management workflows.

8. Training and Support

Quixy offers comprehensive training and support resources to help organizations maximize the value of their platform. With access to training materials, documentation, and technical support, organizations can empower their teams to manage technical debt and drive digital transformation initiatives forward effectively.

Conclusion 

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.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q. What causes tech debt?

Technical debt can arise due to time constraints, rushed development, changing requirements, poor coding practices, or neglecting proper documentation or testing.

Q. How do you manage tech debt?

Managing tech debt involves acknowledging its existence, prioritizing areas to address, allocating resources for refactoring or improvements, and fostering a culture of clean code and continuous improvement.

Q. How can you pay off tech debt?

Paying off technical debt involves investing time and resources into refactoring code, addressing outdated or inefficient components, improving documentation, and dedicating efforts to resolve underlying issues.

Q. What are the benefits of addressing tech debt?

Addressing technical debt leads to enhanced system stability, increased development speed in the long term, reduced maintenance costs, improved code quality, and better adaptability to future changes or enhancements.

Q. Is it possible to completely eliminate tech debt?

Complete elimination of technical debt might be unattainable as software systems evolve and change over time. However, teams can significantly reduce and manage technical debt to maintain a healthy codebase with proactive management, consistent improvement practices, and a focus on quality.

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