IT Strategy

Five Tips For Understanding and Eliminating a Technical Debt

Whether it’s currency or software code, the word “debt” can conjure up some nightmares. Technical debt, aka code debt has the same effect on many within the developing community,

Ignoring some technical debt and concentrating on speedy software delivery can end up annihilating customer satisfaction and costing the business a lot of money (to rework the code). 

Technical debt is usually the result of poor software development practices that lead to a huge codebase that’s sort of held together with band-aids. In other words, it’s a series of bad decisions that makes a developer use more resources to accomplish a lot less. Most of this occurs during the iteration phase of development where the speed of release takes precedence over high-quality.

Sometimes a culture of apathy within an organization can also lead to technical debt. This is usually the result of supporting urgent changes while being under pressure to just deliver.

So how do you go about turning the tables on technical debt?

Dealing with this scenario comes down to “paying it back” and preventing it from happening. This means that success comes down to a cultural shift not only within software teams but the organization as a whole.

At the same time, it can also be a vital tool in keeping business objectives and technical realities in (relative) harmony. It’s just like buying a house, a lot of people can’t do it unless they get a loan.

So you just have to take on some code debt with a concrete plan to pay it back which in turn can be the difference that makes the overall product and business a success. Besides, it’s a reality that we all have to accept as even companies that make software quality a priority, still find it difficult to avoid technical debt.

So what’s the best way to manage your technical debt? Here are some tips that can help tackle this problem.

1. Don’t Ignore it!

Just like financial debt, you can’t just sweep it under the carpet and forget about it. You have to face up to the situation and find the best way to manage it and resolve it.

The best way forward will be to perceive it as a great opportunity to enhance the whole system. Be proactive about identifying debt in the code while creating it. For example, Papercut is a way to annotate code that’s problematic in Android and Java development.

Furthermore, as it’s designed with a tripwire to fail the build, the product will never make it to the marketplace before all issues have been resolved.

2. Define Best Practices for DevOps and Stick to them

When it comes to minimizing your technical debt, automating every application lifecycle management process end-to-end can make a significant difference. But this doesn’t mean that you can just buy new tools and drop them in the development pipeline.

When that happens, coders tend to blame the tools rather than the deficient development process. By consistently enforcing best practices, taking process shortcuts will lose its appeal. The best way to enhance your chances of improving first-time quality is to reduce the regression rate.

DevOps teams also need to improve communication within the team while elevating their coding and testing skills. This can only be achieved by developing a component architecture that’s enabled to deploy a variety of components.

Companies should also invest in improving the process as regular activities like two-day hackathons can be very valuable. These types of sessions have created tools and methods to reduce code debt (for example log overview and analyze).

Check out how to improve custom app delivery with DevOps.

3. Develop an Organizational Culture of High-Quality

When there is a culture of high quality in place, people will care a lot more about preventing technical debt. At the same time, when it does occur, they will likely be more serious about resolving it quickly.

When everyone is on the same page and cares about high-quality, it becomes a whole lot easier to prevent technical debt. So regardless of where each developer stands in the company hierarchy, the same philosophy of high-quality should be encouraged and enforced.

4. Automate Tasks that don’t Add Value to the Project

Dealing with technical debt requires time, so it will be important to streamline activities that add cost and time to development, but no real value to the product. This happens a lot when companies adopt Agile iterative development cycles which are significantly shorter (usually about four weeks as opposed to nine months).

As release cycles get a lot shorter, employees who do non-value work like creating reports on activities and meeting compliance requirements will have to repeat these tasks more often. This makes automation of non mission critical tasks crucial to eliminating technical debt as you will need all hands on board to be effective.

5. Educate Non-Technical Stakeholders

All non-technical stakeholders need to be made aware of the realities surrounding technical debt. While the pressure to deliver is very real and sometimes immense, maintaining an honest open dialog with non-technical stakeholders can help manage the debt and levels of risk.

To help them understand, explaining the potential impact that it can have on the business in terms that are specific to the business can also help ensure that technical debt is understood.

To survive in this highly competitive marketplace, bad code has to be eliminated. In simple business terms, technical debt will have a significant impact on the bottom line (and that should get everyone’s attention). But even the best efforts won’t completely eliminate technical debt, so software teams must focus on managing it without letting it fester and spiral out of control.

We can help you get rid of / avoid your technical debt and improve your top line growth and bottom line savings!
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IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.