Technical Debt: What Is Tech Debt and How Can You Solve for It?

September 30, 2022 Clark Ames

Technical Debt: What Is Tech Debt and How Can You Solve for It?

CIOs are reporting that 10 to 20% of the budget they have for technology, which is set aside for new products, goes to taking care of technical debt. Further, a troubling conclusion of the data suggests CIOs believe their technical debt is about 20 to 40% of the entire technology estate value, prior to depreciation.

This may beg a few questions for you. What is technical debt? Also, how do you solve tech debt?

For solutions to this worrisome topic, keep reading.

What is Technical Debt?

You may also hear the term code debt. When a development team takes initiative to rush the delivery of a project, or a part of its functionality, which will later need refactoring, this describes technical debt. It prioritizes speed to deliver a project versus putting an emphasis on perfect code.

The technical debt definition means that there is an associated cost for the added rework. It is an analogy to monetary debt. Should a company not repay its tech debt, it can mean accumulating “interest,” which makes implementing changes more challenging.

It’s important to understand 2 things regarding code debt:

  1. Every piece of software that is actively being built and improved upon will have some amount of technical debt. While that’s the case, it’s critical to not let the debt pile up which creates more risk for the technology functioning properly.
  2. Technical debt can be an intentional strategy to launch a product or to implement a new feature quickly. If it’s an intentional decision to release as soon as possible, developers may take shortcuts in creating code that will later need to be refactored. As long as there is a plan for managing and maintaining the debt in the future, this can be an effective strategy.

How to Solve Tech Debt

The best way to fight it is to prevent tech debt from happening in the first place. Technical debt could increase daily, so implementing proper measures to avoid it is best to start right now. Proven and successful methods are as follows:

1. Refactoring for Code and Architecture

This is the most direct solution. If you organize a refactoring week, you can resolve and/or prevent code debt. You can do this for every X sprint.

This is an opportunity for the development team to evaluate the architecture, resolve open bugs, and prep for product features that are coming soon. You can ask the team to take the time to consider how a new feature could affect the codebase architecture.

Plus, offering a refactoring week is a way to give developers space to breathe. When they have time to think about code before implementing it, it gives them a chance to consider things from all angles and prevent tech debt.

2. Initiate Technical Debt Talks on a Regular Cadence

If you want to hear your engineers share their expertise, this is a fantastic way to do it. You do not need to isolate these meetings to just the engineers. It is a good practice to include stakeholders, too.

If the engineers are facing dilemmas, it is important to understand what they are and if they can be resolved. The meetings should focus on not only what is going well, but also what is not going well. It should be a safe space to share feedback and not place blame so that everyone can focus their time and energy on improvement.

Engineers could share their accomplishments and explain changes. Open communication regularly helps to prevent technical debt.

3. Track It

For boosting the health of your codebase and simplifying what it takes to solve technical problems for your engineers, track it. This includes adding the complete context when there is a codebase issue, creating documentation for what needs to be done, and adding it to the backlog. Technical debt should be something that your team continually works to resolve.

Manage Your Codebase

If you have technical debt, we understand the challenges you face. We can help you manage it throughout the development lifecycle.

If you have a vision, we can partner with you to make it a reality, and without the burden of accumulating technical debt. Contact us now.