Managing And Minimizing Your Technical Debt

Technical Debt – also known as Code Debt, Design Debt, or Tech Debt is often the byproduct of speedy deliveries of the software. 

There are times when the project manager has to make a strategic choice between speedier delivery and code quality. There may be scenarios where along with a tight deadline, you stumble across some new bugs or want to add on some interesting features in your product. The project managers may choose to opt for shortcuts and temporary fixes to speed-up the deliveries and come back to the bugs after the release. This leads to technical debt. 

Technical debt is inevitable as software design and development decisions are also driven by business goals and deadlines. However, like other debts, it has to be paid off within a certain period to avoid defaults and even complete rework. We have also covered some tools that will make the payoff and technical debt management easier.  

A Technical Debt leaves you with two options, either fix everything wrong in the code and miss the deadline or fix only what’s necessary and come back to the rest on a later date (without fail). However, many fail to do so, subsequently adding to the existing debt, which is even worse. So how to deal with it? 

Let’s learn more about Technical Debt, its relation to software quality, and where to draw the line.

So, when is Technical Debt unavoidable?

  • When another high-priority feature/ functionality needs to be attended because of a high opportunity cost. 
  • You are on a mission to get your product tested with your real users and can not miss the launch deadline. This implies you choose to go-live with a working product over a ‘flawless code’.

When is technical debt beyond tolerance?  

  • It’s hindering your user experience in numerous ways 
  • There’s a mountain of older debt that was never attended to in the first place 
  • It’s coming in the way of your product’s scalability and expansion plans 
  • Technology and tools used are obsolete in the current scenario. 

Is there a connection between Software quality and Technical debt?

The answer is a yes, but not necessarily in a negative way. If someone claims that their technical debt level is low, it can mean several things. They could have missed many deadlines, deployed more resources (in terms of employees, efforts, and time) than required, or even went down the rabbit hole of over-engineering. 

And the opposite can also be true. The answer varies from person to person. Finding the right balance isn’t easy, but one can always strive for it. 

Managing your technical debt efficiently

As discussed above, there is a good and bad side to everything, technical debt included. A perfect, error-free code is never a possibility. There will always be some small bug, patchwork done to meet deadlines. 

However, technical debt should not be the culprit behind sleepless nights. Here is how we manage it for our clients:

  • Schedule regular clean-ups that go to the root of your technical debt. This means that you will have a spare more than a day regularly to keep your product’s technical debt within manageable limits. 
  • Make sure that any shortcuts, omitted code lines, or such trade-offs decisions are taken in your development stage are documented in a single and accessible place. Also, it must be recorded in a way that every team member can understand it and don’t end up wasting time in decoding the documents themselves. 
  • Inform stakeholders about your present technical debt levels. This will ensure that there is no surprise sprung on them when certain deadlines are missed. 
  • Implement automated unit tests during development stages. This will provide faster feedback and lead to quicker iteration cycles. 
  • Be on the lookout for newer technologies and possible industry disruptors. This will help you in anticipating the current relevance of the technologies deployed in your product. Also, when finalizing the tech stack of your products, ensure that the tools and technologies selected will be around for a long time and have active communities. 
  • If possible, have a dedicated team (can be a small one) exclusive for managing technical debt. Unanimously decide on the permissible level of technical debt with this team. And keep them involved in your development and testing process. 
  • This is specific to legacy codes. Factor in the relevance, time and efforts required, possible delays, testing, and team capabilities before you deep dive into it.  

Leaving behind loads of technical debt is no wise decision. In the future, your team will dread going back to it, or even think of rewriting the entire code. But it is complementary to quicker iterations and release cycles. So ensure that you follow through with technical debt reviews regularly. 

Feel free to get in touch with us here for any discussions on this or newer projects. We are always up for challenges and unique ideas!

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