Technical debt is supposed to be a term that is being used predominantly within only the technical community as a computer programmer, Ward Cunningham, had coined this phrase in the year 1992. Today the technical debt is assuming a lot of importance and getting a whole lot of attention thanks to the proliferation of popular agile programming. We would be discussing the strategic implications of technical debt in this article.
Simply speaking, the technical debt is supposed to be the incremental cost, as well as, the actual loss of agility to the organization because of previous decisions that were taken for saving money or time while implementing brand new systems or while maintaining effectively existing systems. Technical debt seems to take place when systems are wrongly integrated or when the code is excessively complicated. This is because of a host of reasons like inefficiencies, running outdated software versions, time to market factors and many others.
We understand from https://www.forbes.com that while assumptions and shortcuts help developers in iterating quickly, they even impact your software in a manner that it starts accruing technical debt. If left unaddressed, we know that this debt would be bogging down systems, crashing software, and causing multi-month delays, as far as, product releases are concerned.
Identifying Technical Debt
Here are some warning signs that show that a project has actually created technical debt.
- Code smells seem to be really more subtle as compared to logic errors and they indicate issues that are actually more likely to influence overall performance quality instead of causing a crash.
- Higher degrees of complexity especially, because technologies are overlapping one another.
- Products bugs which would be causing your whole system to crash.
- Problems with coding style. Chalking out an effective coding style guide and remembering to stick to it. This would help in overcoming the problem.
The thing to keep in mind at this point in time is that if technical debt is left unaddressed it could culminate in reduced agility, higher cost of ownership, and a relatively long time for marketing. There could be a negative impact on security and customer experience. Just like you browse through debt consolidation loan reviews for your personal debt, you need to do ample research to boost your knowledge about technical debt and ways to get rid of it.
Some Benefits of Technical Debt
Technical debt could help us in:
- Getting the important answer to the query ‘Is your software really a liability or an asset?’
- Defining the accurate amount of money you need to invest in remediating the code.
- Obtaining insights and data for guiding you through your software fix-it process.
- Identifying projects that are probably heading towards trouble at the initial stage of your software lifecycle.
- Determining if your technical debt is in any way responsible for slow response from your software development team to customer requests.
Best Practices of Managing Technical Debt
In order to identify technical debt, you may have encountered a few key signals. For instance, the performance ratings of your product could be very much on the decline or maybe your developers are taking a lot more time to iterate. But can you accurately measure this? What is supposed to be the actual cost of your technical debt?
An effective way of coming up with this measure surely is examining the exact number of days that would be required by developers for reducing technical debt just by effectively performing activities like refactoring or even replacing the application. The moment you thought of attaching a dollar amount mostly to these functions, it would be convenient for you to compare this particular data to some other milestones, such as the number of days remaining before the actual release date. This would be providing an exceptional cost/benefit analysis. It would also, help you in communicating effectively with the rest of your team in the organization. Along with coming up with a present status update, it could be even more important to come up with estimates of the way you are expecting to change or manage technical debt over time.
The vital step is to identify and acknowledge the presence of technical debt and then share your discovery about technical debt with the key stakeholders. It must be the chief responsibility and duty of IT management to effectively set the tone. They must communicate effectively to non-IT managers regarding the true cost or value of technical debt. The IT head must consider explaining the real necessity of paying down your organization’s technical debt.
There are three things to consider for effectively managing technical debt.
Waive the Need Completely: Frankly speaking, the company decides to carry on with the system because it no longer thinks that technical debt needs to be managed. If you simply cannot think of waiving the need, then you would have to consider refactoring or replacing the application.
Re-factor the Application: This is purely aimed to reduce complications, remove duplicates, and enhance the overall code structure. In this context, you must acknowledge that refactoring is till now the only effective way of improving the internal structure of a code without at all altering the program’s behavior.
Replace the Application: This would be introducing new technical debt but the idea is actually to quickly address it and try minimizing it to the extent possible.
Implementing Agile Practices for Minimizing Technical Debt
Agile practices actually embrace iterations and increments instead of completed projects. Implementing agile methodologies could be a great way of staying on top of your technical debt. When you think in terms of short spells of work, it becomes simpler to manage smaller groups of your company’s technical debt in practically, an ongoing manner. So debt would never be ignored for better or bigger phases and projects thus, evading long-term interest.
By using agile methodologies such as CI or Continuous Integration and test automation, you could rest assured that the IT team is constantly working on and managing technical debt. Many experts believe that by applying these theories technical debt could be eliminated entirely eventually.
The most effective way of reducing technical debt in your new projects would be to consider including technical debt right from the initial stages of the conversation. You need to understand that just like your financial debt; your technical debt would be becoming more expensive over time. You must necessarily minimize technical debt for reducing risk, improving agility, and delivering best-in-class outcomes in the current competitive digital world.