How To Recover From Technical Debt
05 February 2021 4 min read
How to recover from technical debt
During intense software development projects, the goal always is to deliver the projects as soon as possible. As a way of trying to meet deadlines, some aspects that may affect the overall quality of code might be ignored, which leads to a lot of undone tasks that have to be taken care of in the future.
In software development, these undone tasks are referred to as technical debt. That means at some point, someone working on that project will have to do these tasks.
If you are a team leader or a developer working on a project that unfortunately has technical debt, worry not because there is a way you can recover and bring your project back to life. In today's article, I will share some of the best strategies you can use to recover from technical debt. Let's dive in.
Understand the causes of technical debt
Before you jump into fixing the code, it is always best to understand the cause of the technical debt in the first place. This will reduce the likelihood of getting technical debts in the future due to the same reasons. The process of finding out the causes of your technical debt requires slowing down and analyzing the current status of the project and the steps you used to get there.
After determining the causes of your technical debt, it will now be easier to take the necessary steps to fix the issues with your code and being careful not to create more technical debt in the future. For bigger teams, this task is usually done by a quality assurance engineer in collaboration with the key developers who worked on the project.
Re-think your software development strategy
The fact you have a technical debt means there is something you need to change regarding the strategies you used while working on the project. While designing your new development strategy, you have to involve all the project stakeholders so that you agree on how best to proceed without creating more technical debt for the future.
The best strategy is always one that all stakeholders agree with. For instance, if the client pressurizes the team building the project, they will most likely do what it takes to meet the deadline without considering the technical debt it may create in the future. So, all stakeholders must agree on a strategy that doesn't compromise the project's quality at the end of the day.
Quantify the various aspects of technical debt
While writing code, the developers may often not know the extent of the technical debt if there is no basis to determine this. However, if you can quantify the different aspects of the technical debt into metrics that developers can look at while working, most of the issues with the code will be addressed much faster.
Some of the metrics you can use include bug count and code readability. Tools like Duecode can give you more insights into the quality of code and also offer suggestions on how best you can improve your code.
Split the project into smaller units
Trying to fix issues in the entire project all at once may lead to further problems and more time wasted. It is always better to work on a smaller portion of the code, fix the problems it has, and then proceed to the next. This approach may seem like it takes more time, but in an actual sense, it doesn't because it is physiologically easier to identify and fix a problem in 50 lines of code than it would be in 2000 lines.
While using this approach, you may also divide your team to focus on the different aspects of the technical debt to increase efficiency. For instance, you can have some members work on bugs while some are focusing on the readability and general functionality of the code. This approach takes less time than when everyone has to look for all the problems.
Refactoring the code
Refactoring code refers to the process of improving the internal quality of the code without affecting the functionality of the software on the user's side. This is an efficient way of reducing the technical debt that most developers tend to ignore since it doesn't cause any changes on the software users' side.
The aim of refactoring code is to improve its quality, which is one of the ways technical debt can be eliminated. Refactoring code in regular intervals helps eliminate errors in the code, which leads to much more readable, upgradable, better functioning, and maintainable code. So, if you are a developer or leader of a development team, refactoring code should always be one of the strategies you implement when you have technical debt in a project.
Gradual documentation of the project
Writing down all the necessary information about the project at every stage makes it easy to follow up on the project and fix any issues that may have lead to the technical debt. If you get to some level of your project and realize there is a lot of technical debt to handle, it is at that point that you should go back and start documenting the project to maintain a knowledge base. With this, it will be much easier to recognize any errors that may have led to the technical debt.
It may not be practical to fully eliminate technical debt, but how you handle it will impact the overall quality of the project. When you realize issues with your code, you must first acknowledge them, find out the causes, and determine the best way to fix them. The involvement of all project stakeholders is also very crucial while dealing with technical debt.