How To Prevent Technical Debt In Startup

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One thing that is common among most software startups is the urge to ship their product (MVP) as soon as possible without investing a lot of resources. Building a minimum viable product is usually done using rapid development methodologies that often don't consider technical debt.

The challenge with ignoring technical debt is that you will have to deal with the implication later as you try to add new features to the product. Preventing technical debt might be costly and time-consuming in the short run, but the long-term rewards are worth the investment.

If you are keen to know more about how you can prevent technical debt in a startup, keep reading because that is what this article is about. Let's get started.

What is technical debt?

The term technical debt refers to the extra work and costs you have to incur later in a software development project as a result of choosing the easy solution now instead of a longer one that follows the best coding practices. For the case of startups, the common cause of technical debt is trying to build features of the MVP using the fastest possible means.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against the idea of building minimum viable products because it is a necessary step while testing the feasibility of any idea in the market. However, as you build the MVP, it is also crucial to reduce as much technical debt as you can to avoid wasting more resources in the future trying to fix the problems you caused today. Below are some of the ways you can prevent technical debt.

How to keep technical debt in check

Know the implications

The first step while preventing technical debt is knowing the cost you will have to pay later if you ignore it now. Every member of the development and management team needs to be aware of the negative impact technical debt will have on the product so that you all work together towards preventing it now.

It may not be realistic to eliminate technical debt more so if you are trying to ship the product in the shortest time possible, but there is always a way you can reduce its magnitude.

Quantify the technical debt

Once you are aware that your project has some technical debt, it is necessary to quantify it in terms of time and cost that will be incurred in the future to clean up that debt. Quantifying your technical debt gives everyone an idea of how much work they need to do to reduce or possibly eliminate the technical debt as soon as possible.

One of the ways you can measure technical debt is through using the Technical Debt Ratio (TDR). TDR is the ratio of the cost to fix the code later to the cost of building it now. This ratio gives you an idea of how much work you will have to do in the future to fix the flaws in your code.

Technical Debt Ratio (TDR)

Take advantage of automated code review tools

In 2021, there are several code review tools that you can use to effortlessly eliminate some of the errors from your code that would have possibly turned into technical debt in the future. With automated tools like these, you will eliminate errors in your code without wasting any valuable time that you need to build the next big feature for your MVP.

You may have to pay a small fee for most of these tools but what you get out of them at the end of the day is what matters most.

Keep track of all the changes made by each developer

One of the easiest ways you can fix errors and any other issues with your code is by having the details of the changes made at all stages of the project. Manually recording these changes might be time-wasting, so you may need an automated tool that takes note of these changes effortlessly. Duecode is one of those tools that you can use to ensure everyone on the team knows the changes made on the project and who made them.

Make code review a routine

After adding a new feature to your MVP, always embark on reviewing the particular segment of the code before adding more features. Now that you have tested the viability of the idea, it is important to review your code at all stages to avoid having unnecessary technical debt along the way.

You can assign one of the developers the role of reviewing all the code gradually as it is being written. Having fresh eyes to reread the code makes it easier to identify any errors and inefficiencies that other developers may not have seen.

Follow the best coding practices

No matter how fast you want to build your product, it is necessary to follow the best coding practices because it will make your work easier later as you add new features to the product. By following the recommended practices of the languages and frameworks you are using, you will get cleaner code that is easier to review and also make changes later when the need arises.

Most of the time, following these practices doesn't take much of your time. All that is required is ensuring everyone on the team knows these practices and why it is important to follow them while building your project.

Final thoughts

Technical debt is one of the aspects that lots of startups tend to ignore especially during the process of building the minimum viable product. Yes, it is important to ship features in the shortest time possible, but always take the time to fix any technical debt that might be in that new feature immediately after testing its feasibility in the market.

Updated on October 6, 2021