Debt is a difficult topic to understand. The word is typically associated with negative connotations, such as college debts, medical expenditures, or mortgage payments. Basically, it’s a word you definitely don’t want to hear. Can you think of many occasions when debt has been considered a good thing? Probably not. However, certain financial debt might really benefit people.
The same may be said about a sort of debt you may have never heard of: technical debt.
Technical debt, also known as tech debt or code debt, is the outcome of rushing a project or functionality to completion, which will require reworking later. Instead of high-quality code, the organization settles for a faster development process.
Tech debt, like financial debt, may either hurt or benefit your company. Engineers, software developers, and team leaders must keep track of how much technical debt they accumulate and try to manage it effectively in order to make good use of it. This may be a challenging prospect for businesses, particularly if they do not have a clear knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks of tech debt nor experience with handling a debt load.
Types of Technical Debt
There are actually multiple types of tech debt. Understanding each type of tech debt will help software teams and anyone else manage and prevent them from dragging a project down and having an impact on productivity and business goals.
Accidental Tech Debt
When it comes to software systems, any coding and development team will aim to strike a balance between looking forward and future-proofing their designs while maintaining simplicity and speed. This is a delicate balance to strike, and no one gets it just right every time.
As systems and needs grow, you may discover that your design is wrong, or that adding additional functionality has become complicated and time-consuming and needs improvement. It’s typically simpler to rework a solid initial design progressively, but you may need to accept the challenge and conduct a more extensive change and readjust your design decisions.
Bit Rot Technical Debt
Bit rot is a type of technical debt that develops over time. Through a series of incremental adjustments, a component or system gradually devolves into excessive complexity, which is compounded when it is worked on by several persons who may not completely comprehend the initial design. Copy-paste and cargo-cult programming are examples of symptoms.
Deliberate Technical Debt
Designers are often aware of the proper and expedient methods for doing tasks. In many circumstances, the quick way is the right way, but there are times when software development teams may purposefully do things the “wrong” way and impact code quality in order to get a project done quickly.
Evaluate not just how much time you’ll save deploying a feature if you go this path, but also the true costs of the process debt and how long it will take to repay the intentionally incurred debt. Ensure all stakeholders understand that this will certainly slow down the rollout of further features in the future.
Is Tech Debt Good?
Knowing whether to release a feature and incur technical debt is a combination of art, science, and profit.
Among the most crucial factors to be considered when taking out a business loan is the interest rate. Using a dubious financial source with an interest rate in the high double digits or above is obviously a terrible decision.
The same may be said about technical debt. Designers must calculate how much “interest” they will pay based on pertinent facts and objectives. Technical debt is typically a good thing to have if the amount you’ll pay back is moderate and sensible.
What should a designer and design team be asking when they are thinking of taking on technical debt? They should propose and consider if the tech debt is fundamental to the core concept and project. If so, they should make the changes needed to ensure that the technical debt isn’t literally built into the project.
What impact will tech debt have on the future development of the project? This is something that should be explored as well. Extra time might be beneficial to solve technical debt if it prevents it from messing up the product in the future.
What is the cost of fixing technical debt? If solving technical debt is quick and painless and inexpensive, doing so is a no-brainer.
Most importantly, what effect does technical debt have on the customer? Is it something that will scare customers away and lose them by droves? If so, it’s obvious that needs to be addressed and the business strategy should be changed. But if the impact on customers is minor, perhaps technical debt isn’t that bad – especially if it leads to the project being released on time.
Technical debt is something that must be addressed on occasion, but not always. It all boils down to “opportunity cost,” as defined by economists. If an R&D team spends one day fixing problems and resolving technical debt, that day isn’t spent building new features. The time spent building new features, on the other hand, is not spent repairing issues or upgrading your existing program.
Every dollar spent on R&D is a dollar spent on marketing, administration, and other company operations that would otherwise be spent. And the other way around. In all domains, decisions must be made based on priorities, and technical debt is frequently a lesser priority.
How To Eliminate Tech Debt
Yet, if a team is hoping to eliminate all technical debt, it is possible. It can be achieved through using proper documentation, detailing all of the issues found, and a plan to resolve them. After that, a trust of the development team is necessary too, since they will be the ones to get the job done and find all the solutions. The approach to finding the right team can be varied; you can outstaff or outsource. But however you find your crew, they should be a vital part of finding tech debt solutions.
Designers should also subscribe to the Agile methodology, which is constructed around a common goal through sincere collaboration. A good, secure, reliable testing product will also be needed if technical debt is being targeted. And most importantly, an open communication system should be standard for any team looking to get rid of all technical debt, because this will help highlight problems and brainstorm solutions.