Understanding Technical Debt and Ways of Tackling It

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The world today is fast and competitive. It is also becoming more and more dynamic. A lot of companies have made strides in technological innovations and have made worthwhile tech products. Cost cutting is no longer innovative but rather optimizing that cost by using technology to help people do their jobs smoothly.

Companies aspire to be first movers. It is an attractive prospect and is quite alluring for a lot of companies to be in that category. However despite the benefits, it is like walking on a thin wire because being a first mover requires a lot of money.

Developers have been working in ways where their leads and managers emphasize easy and quick solutions. This brings them on the verge of technical debt aka tech debt. Let us now read more about it.


Technical debt - defining it and its components

According to professionals from a Dubai based mobile app development company, technical debt is an occurrence which is common in product development (technology products that is). When development teams choose a solution which is limited yet easy to deploy. That product does reach the market quickly but it lacks the needed technological and technical features to make it a hit.

What happens afterwards is that development teams and their countries start spending time fixing those product(s). The costs are quite monumental and completely reworking an already finished product is like working on an already assembled Ford Taurus where adding more features requires more money and equipment. 

There are multiple reasons and occurrences causing technical debt. Let us now explore them:


Constraints of Time 

App development teams are often under pressure to work as fast as they can. They are often forced to release both products and their updates (plus upgrades) quickly. There are instances where companies end up outsourcing some coding jobs to other developers who lack the needed experience.

A finished product with bad coding, incomplete features, glitches and crashes cannot work in the market. It is either burned or revamped completely, and making a new one is much better instead of working on a damaged product to get it better.


Code used is obsolete either due to an outdated programming language

Modern day apps involve numerous frameworks and coding languages. Sometimes, they work on third party APIs. All of them change within time and code often gets updated. At times, a single line of code is now a descriptive four to five lines of code.

However, some components of these technologies become outdated. This can be a cause of concern if developers used code which is outdated, used an outdated version of a programming language or toolkit in writing the app. This not only fails the app later on but also causes large scale reworks. 

Hence a lot of time is spent in writing and making them again on the latest footing and technologies. This is more costly than the development itself.


Quality assurance standards have hit the bottom of the barrel

It can be easy to reduce some steps in the quality assurance (QA) and testing process, just to save some time, money and other resources. Even the quality assurance teams can slack off certain tasks thinking its cool to do so and assume things will be fine.

The outcome is disastrous. It will be a lackluster practice on the end of the QA and testing teams which will result in a lackluster product. The lackluster product's lost features constitute technical debt.

These problems are preventable usually and can cost less if worked upon early. Else it converts into a storm which cannot be weathered easily.


Little to no follow ups Once product has been launched

At times, technical debt happens even after an app was developed, checked, tested and launched without problems. However, problems arrive when the code goes obsolete. The solution requires checkups after launch and a proper follow up. The product may need to be taken down so patches can heal it and then released into the market.


The purpose of highlighting all this

Technical debt may come from neglect. However, it mainly comes from the programming practices and processes. It is also an end product of miscalculated and calculated risk. At times, even the most decent and worthwhile of products that properly reach the market fall down. Companies often use technical debt at key times.

When is that key time? When products are more than likely to succeed in the long run through a core feature. Developers then do their best to fill the gaps whilst other features are developed and tested.


How can technical debt be tackled?

Here are some sure fire ways confirmed by experts in combating technical debt:


Measuring technical debt analytically

A lot of IT teams have developed unique methods when measuring their debt. The debt is rated on key technology attributes like degree of support, expected remaining life span, span and stability. Then they are rated on two attributes like its criticality to business and tactical alignment.

Then the sum of four key attributes are multiplied by the latter two. Then the outcome is normalized to a ratio between 0 and 1. Between 0 and 0.4 is acceptable, between 0.5 and 0.7 is concerning and anything above 0.7 is hence critical.


Paying down debt by prioritizing it on basis of roadmaps

All the little decisions made earlier to forego some things multiply and become large. This is why teams need to work in agile fashion across all of it. Nothing is done unless and until it is properly adjusted and any and all processes are revisited, resolved and all debt mitigated. All resources will be properly allocated for maintenance, quality assurance and testing.


Treating technical debt as business risk

Technical debt should not be taken lightly. It should be given equal priority as business risk. It has business, financial and security implications. Decisions about when to fix things, how much technical debt to incur, when and how to pay it down should align with the company's strategy and business requirements.


New debt should be taken with intent

Unintentional debt is a large-scale problem. Intentional debt is something which can be tracked because it has its place. It even prevents bankruptcy, if it has been tracked properly.

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