3 steps to deal with technical debt

Technical debt, if not managed correctly, maybe cause a proper headache for the whole organization. Let’s check how to deal with it so that when it occurs, it is properly taken care of.

What is technical debt and why does it happen?

Technical debt is a term that describes a situation when software developers decide to accelerate the process they are working on by choosing a solution that is quicker and easier, instead of a more difficult, yet more adequate one. While such an approach may initially seem good, in the long term it will probably cost a lot of money, will cause other, sometimes very serious problems, and may make your systems more prone to cyberattacks.

Sometimes tech debt can be caused by the lack of knowledge and expertise of the team working on a certain project, especially when the developers are inexperienced and new in the field. But often it happens in more experienced teams, as a result of time pressure and the need to develop a product quicker to gain a competitive advantage. Other popular causes of tech debt are the lack of code documentation or testing procedures, poor leadership, or issues with budget and processes.

How to deal with technical debt?

It is extremely important to know how to manage your tech debt so that it does not have lasting, negative consequences such as higher costs, and problems with the security of the application or with its usability. The most important thing to remember is to deal with your tech debt on time. Here are our tips on how to go about it.

Create a plan of action

Start by preparing a list of all your tech debts (and later on remember to keep it updated). Once it’s ready, create a comprehensive plan for dealing with them, taking into consideration why they happened, when they need to be dealt with and what’s the best approach you should take. Regularly check on the state of things and react if you notice any unexpected variations to your original plan.

Once you know what your tech debts are, you may want to measure them to make them more understandable to all team members. Some good metrics that allow you to measure your tech debts include: 

  • Cyclomatic complexity – a tool allowing you to measure the complexity of your code,
  • SQALE – a method allowing you to evaluate your software quality,
  • Bugcount – a method where you count the bugs to know how they impact the quality of your software. 

Use Agile methodology and Scrum framework to deal with your technical debt

Make your team and all stakeholders aware of the tech debts you have: explain what they are, how are you going to deal with them and what are your deadlines. Keep in mind that according to the Scrum framework, all team members should be aware of any bugs or problems with the product. This is why being open about the tech debt with the product owner is always of paramount importance. 

Implement your plan and repay the debt

Change your plan into action: prioritize your tasks, create automated tests, and refactor your code (or if your tech debt got to the point when this is not enough, rewrite it). A good idea for reducing your tech debt may also be upgrading enterprise-grade technologies – for example, at the end of 2021, Microsoft released .NET6 which contained significant improvements. If you are not using the latest version, your systems may be more prone to bugs.

When it comes to refactoring, remember that the code always needs to be easy to read – if it becomes messy as a result of poor refactoring or too much of it, it may lead to rewriting the code completely, increasing the software development costs even further.   

Preventing technical debt

Preventing tech debt from accumulating is much better than dealing with it later on. To do it effectively:

  • increase your team’s awareness about it: define what it is, think about processes and good practices you can use to avoid it, 
  • make sure everybody within your team can identify the tech debt and knows how to react to it,
  • make frequent tests an inevitable part of all your software development processes: statistics say that a major part of engineers believe tasking is the best way to avoid bugs,
  • in cooperation with your DevOps team encourages strong collaboration between your teams which will result in spotting and solving tech debts at an early stage,
  • use the agile approach: frequent iterations of work and tests to detect bugs which are then dealt with on the go. Such an approach requires frequent meetings and open communication about the state of things.

Code of best practices

One of the things that help address, reduce, or even prevent tech debt, is the code of best practices. Create it with your company’s culture and values in mind and make sure all your teammates are aware of it. By making a point of it you ensure the developers take it seriously and do their best to adhere to it. 

Remember that according to the Scrum framework, the responsibility for the final product and its quality lies with the whole team. Make your whole team feel responsible for tech debts and sell them the importance of dealing with them in a thorough manner.

If you feel your tech debt costs you more than you can afford, find the right partner that will help you manage it and avoid it in the future. Contact us for more info

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