What is Technical Debt?

Published: 13 February 2023

Think of all the features you want to add to your product. Now think of the ways you could cut corners to get those features built faster. This is technical debt. It is any shortcuts taken during development that make code harder to maintain or enhance in the future. It’s natural to want to push out new features quickly, but if not managed properly, it can have a major impact on the long-term health of your codebase. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at technical debt and how it can be managed effectively.

The definition of technical debt

Technical debt, a common phrase amongst programmers and developers, is a metaphor that has been used since 1992 to describe the cost of additional development work caused by choices made in earlier development. It is important to note that it may not necessarily be bad – as short-term decisions can sometimes provide longer-term benefits. However, it can become problematic when the debt accumulates and there aren’t resources allocated to repay it. For example, when dealing with an older codebase, developers may need to spend more time understanding components of the existing code than writing new features – resulting in extra work required for maintaining operations. Technical debt is inevitable for any project that requires continual updating and the key is ensuring sufficient resources are assigned to handle it.

The causes of technical debt

There are many things that can contribute to technical debt, such as coding shortcuts taken during development, lack of documentation in an effort to speed up release cycles, and inadequate requirements by organizations that don’t understand what is needed for successful software development. In addition, a lack of code reviews and automated tests can lead to technical debt, as can insufficient knowledge transfer from senior developers to junior engineers who aren’t experienced enough (yet). Fortunately, by understanding the causes and working with developers on maintenance and long-term planning organizations can reduce their liabilities associated with it.

The consequences

Poor practices can have serious, long-lasting consequences for businesses. If code is rushed and is not properly optimized or tested, this can lead to inefficiencies which impact the bottom line. Higher levels of debt can lead to a decrease in customer satisfaction due to longer response times, greater maintenance costs and reduced reliability all resulting from inadequate software architecture. In extreme cases, it can even lead to organizations becoming irrelevant if they are unable to keep up with advances in technology as a result of their inability to manage technical debt. All in all, proper attention should be paid when dealing with technical debt in order to ensure short-term and long-term success for organizations.

In conclusion

Technical debt is a threat that all software engineering teams need to be aware of and take the necessary precautions to mitigate.  We now have a much better understanding of what technical debt is, how it accumulates, and why we should avoid it. The most effective way for organizations to prevent technical debt from occurring in their projects comes from having the right processes, collaboration tools, and policies in place. Developer Analytics from BlueOptima is used to identify tech debt issues so they can be corrected. All teams must become knowledgeable of the issues that are associated with technical debt and take appropriate actions to avoid them. This will help your organization reach its objectives faster and more cost-effectively. You can learn more about Developer Analytics here.

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