Technical Debt and why it matters

Technical Debt and why does it matter?

Written by Evita Vecozola

February 28, 2022

During the development process, there are always concessions that you need to make just to get close to the deadline and deliver the project in time. That’s where bad decisions arise and cutting corners seems like the only option. Many times developers will choose that option to try and mitigate a deadline slip which eventually will lead to what is known as technical debt. But technical debt comes with some caveats and challenges, as you can see below.

What is Technical Debt?

The definition of Technical Debt is very simple. This is what happens when a development team expedites the delivery of a certain feature/project, and instead, they just deliver a “good-enough-solution”. Simply put, technical debt is all about prioritizing the delivery speed instead of the quality of code. It’s also known as code debt or design debt, and it can have an impact on how everything is perceived and what work you need to do in the future. Technical debt can be easy to identify since there will be either issue with coding style, nonfunctional requirements, product bugs or code smells.

Why does it matter?

Having technical debt is expensive.

At first, technical debt sounds like a great idea because it helps reduce development costs. But the truth is that you will end up with more costs in the long run when you try to improve on what you have and enhance that feature/project the way it was supposed to be in the first place. You must think carefully about what you want to be implemented and what you want the feature to be. 

When you have technical debt, that means more work needs to be done on a feature and you postpone it for a later date. So even though, yes, you get your new feature out fast, it doesn’t mean that the work on it is finished, and you can start pushing the developer to create a new feature again or start a new project. If technical debt is overlooked, next time when you want to implement some changes that might not be possible to get done or might take way more hours than you expected. In the end, it can cost you not only a lot of time, paid hours, and coffee, it will also cost your developers nerves or even an unstable solution. 

Management pressure is not always at fault when it comes to technical debt. It is the developer’s responsibility to deliver a quality product that works. Therefore, it is also their responsibility to let the management know if the deadline would compromise the product. 

 

Technical Debt

How should you address it?

When you encounter technical debt, it’s a very good idea to have a balance between costs, quality, and time. With that in mind, there are some ways to address the situation. First, you can try to lower the complexity of some features from the start, but still, create a great base that you can expand upon later. So instead of creating a brand-new product with 10 features, you could settle for 3 to start with. You want quality over quantity, right?

Sometimes, software companies try to add too many features to a project just to do it. This leads them to not only not being able to maintain those features properly in the long run, but also to spend more time developing. So, they end up losing time, quality, and money. What you want to do here is to prevent that and focus on integrating solutions and features that you need. 

Talk with your developers and give them time to fix the technical debt after the fast release of the feature. It is a priority to finish what ever is started in order to keep your quality standards and to keep your reputation working for you. 

LETS KEEP IT SHORT

As you can see, technical debt can be a great middle-ground between value and mitigating costs yet should be practiced with caution. You should always try to stay away from having too much technical debt, as it can easily become an issue. It can be prevented by having clear communication with your developer team, trusting their time estimates, giving them resources to not only do their jobs but also do them well. 

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