How to Approach Technical Debt In Startup
22 March 2021 5 min read
Using Technical Debt as a catalyst works well in the short run. Buckle your safety belts and adopt tough measures, as the seemingly insignificant Technical Debt in the early stage of your business life cycle grows into an uncontrollable monster in the growth phase.
The idea of starting up a software business without having little or no coding skills fascinates many. But if you are the one with enough expertise and even a degree in coding, being a successful IT startup is still a challenge.
Most startup software houses possess little resources in terms of finances and expertise. This, in turn, results in poor engineering practices, dirty coding, and accumulation of technical debt.
By definition, Technical Debt is any kind of future coding complexities or failure to carry on the initially designed code further. If you prefer to adopt an ad hoc engineering practice to get the project done and switch to the next in the queue, you are more likely to grow while accumulating technical debt.
In case you are using Technical debt as your growth stimulator, you must be able to face the challenges of growth while continuously coping with the increasing levels of debt. Deciding on the optimal Technical Debt level and maintaining it to that level is something many startups fail to manage and thus end up winding up their business. Managing the technical debt can pay you in the future.
Technical debt is a reason behind the failure of the majority of online startups in the growth stage. Using Technical Debt as a catalyst can work only in the short run. Buckle your safety belts and adopt tough measures because the seemingly insignificant Technical Debt in the early stage of your business life cycle grows into an uncontrollable monster in the growth phase. The competition is very high in online businesses.
How do you approach Technical Debt?
In a startup software business, hiring the right professionals is always one of the biggest challenges. The software engineer knows well what coding errors can be reported by the customer in the future. Most of the time, shortcuts adopted in coding can save time to deliver, yet these should be weighed proactively against the costs in terms of money and time for refactoring the code errors that were left previously unresolved.
Refactoring is key to make the software a success. Preventative practices that aid in swift project inauguration should be accompanied by scheduled checks of errors. No matter how quickly you complete the project and switch to the next, the delivered software coding should have an incorporated revision path or scalability.
Even if your engineers are using the cleanest possible codes and launched an application in the first phase, they may come to know later that the system requirements have changed in the following stages. Such kind of indeliberate technical debt creation can prove a challenge if the alterations needed are significantly different. The built-in systems for regular check requirements are key to cope with such coding challenges.
Understanding technical debt and recognizing the source helps the startups to manage it over the growth period. To refactor the software design and system configurations, it's common in organizations to hand over the task to multiple technicians who apply different solutions. This may increase the complexity of coding and may result in further debt creation. No doubt, handling these issues poses a tough time to the managers.
How to handle Technical Debt
Managing technical debt over the life cycle of your IT startup is crucial to succeeding in the long run. All the measures that an organization takes in this regard should have a single goal; customer satisfaction. Delivering the software timely and keeping track of the errors in functionality can win customer confidence.
For startups, it's hard to prevent technical debt. After delivering the software, it's important to arrange a meeting with the owner. The technical team and the owner can collectively find out the errors and come up with a solution. To make the collaboration with clients successful, a business needs to implement the following regular setups:
1. Categorize the technical debt:
Technical debt can be of three types. The first kind of debt is the one created due to the deliberate usage of quick dirty coding to meet the deadlines. The second kind is the one created automatically due to changes in system requirements. And the third one originates with time due to continuous refactoring in the coding by various engineers. Understanding the exact kind of technical debt saves time and aids in better handling.
2. Decide on the optimal level of technical debt:
A certain level of technical debt is acceptable in every software. Not all software is the same, and we cannot define a standard optimal level of technical debt for all applications. The engineers involved in the design process know which areas of the program have more functionality than the rest of the program. If most of your debt is accumulated in the area that the software functionality depends on most, the debt is bad.
Calculating the technical debt ratio helps managers find out the optimum level of debt. It is calculated by dividing the fixing cost of the application by the building cost. The higher technical debt ratio implies an alarming situation to handle quickly.
3. Implement a system to track technical debt:
Nowadays, the most popular approach to managing technical debt is the Agile approach. Being a startup, you should incorporate an approach in your business set up to identify and measure debt timely and report in the documents. Frequent checking, reporting, and fixing should be a norm for everyone to follow in your business. Allocate resources and time to respond swiftly.
4. Coding Standards and Automated tests:
Following the correct coding standards ensures clean coding practices. Technicians prefer to write automated tests for future errors and bug detections automatically.
5.Make teams manage technical debt:
Making teams deal with coding errors reported by the technicians or owners before and after delivery aid in responding timely to customer complaints. These teams routinely check-in, process, and deliver projects and arrange meetings involving technicians and clients to come up with the solution.
No wonder 80 percent of new businesses fail in their first years; the rest survive! For an IT startup, identifying, measuring, and managing the technical debt is key to ensure long-term success. Realizing the positive impact of technical debt in growth and handling it to keep an optimum level is a challenge for every IT startup.