#development, #product
11 March 2020
Julianna Sykutera

What is technical debt?

Clear code, consistent design, and innovative, modern solutions are the three most valued aspects that enable systematic app development. They represent the level of quality desired on the market and reflect the company’s involvement in the collaboration. Despite them being the ultimate standard of IT services, not every company delivers such results. The reason for that is technical debt

Technical debt – Essentials 

What does it mean to produce technical debt? It means sacrificing the quality of the code or the overall architecture of an IT project in order to, for example, hit a particular deadline. At the same time, knowing that it will need to be fixed later as the current state strongly affects any future work with the code. The amount of extra work that arises from such behavior accumulates and can lead to the failure of the entire project. That is technical debt in a nutshell. 

What are the roots of the problem?

The most common reason for the accumulation of technical debt is new business requirements that make old code obsolete. Complex, multileveled projects take some time to be finished. At that time, progress in technology can make them outdated as there would be a better way to implement a certain function or a solution. 

Another situation is when while working on a project, the team realizes the used software is not supported by the owner anymore. However, knowing how much time the team needs to repair the code, they can decide to leave it as it is. It’s because of the upcoming deadline or the higher costs because of the improvements. Usually, companies produce technical debt unintentionally because of the lack of senior-level developers or experience. 

But not always

There are also circumstances when it is made deliberately. It’s when a company wants to meet the deadline for the new version release. However, it is usually a conscious decision with a full understanding of the consequences. A company decides to produce some technical debt for now but also plans to fix it as soon as possible. When it’s well organized, the team is informed about the risks and costs, there is a chance to quickly reduce the number of problems. 

What happens if you’re not aware of the existence of the technical debt

When a company chooses to work on messier code or design, the development team has to eventually return to the project and improve it. But when a team doesn’t know they code the project in outdated technology, the situation is more serious. If the problems are left untouched for a longer period of time, the risk of having more issues or errors buried in the code is getting only higher. 

It usually leads to a situation when poor code quality and bad practices make that people don’t want to work with it. There is a shortage of people who knows the given technology. Lastly, the flood of errors make the repairing process influences the total cost of ownership

How to control technical debt?

Incurring technical debt is not inevitable. Everything depends on the methodology of work and the willingness to create something innovative. 

To control technical debt you need: 

  • Well-prepared analysis – collecting functional and technological requirements for the project
  • The right project architecture – choosing the right technologies that are supported
  • Appropriate practices – taking care of code quality
  • Testing – an appropriate testing procedure of all functionalities
  • Well-prepared documentation – having documentation for each solution

Is it really so scary?

The reason why technical debt is so dangerous to a business is that it can block the whole development of it. It easily leads to a situation in which in a relatively short period of time the company is exposed to a lack of product development and unforeseen costs. That’s why It’s good to mention the risk of incurring technical debt early on to assure everyone knows the consequences connected to it. Because technical debt is not problematic until it is. 

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