How To Solve Technical Debt
15 March 2021 4 min read
Technical debt is one of the common challenges faced during software development, especially when dealing with a project with strict deadlines. While trying to deliver results faster, there are often trade-offs made, which may have bigger implications in the future. If you are keen to learn more about what the term technical debt means and how you can resolve it, this article is for you.
We shall discuss what technical debt means in detail, its causes, and how to resolve the technical debt.
What is technical debt?
In software development, technical debt refers to the trade-offs that you make today that may much more implications in the future than they have today. When you get a financial debt with interest, you are liable to pay more money in the future than what you borrowed.
This same metaphor applies in software development when developers take shortcuts intending to deliver results faster. In most cases, a software problem that is postponed always takes more resources (time and money) to fix than it would have taken if it is fixed immediately. Let's look at some of the common causes of technical debt.
Causes of technical debt
- Lack of knowledge about technical debt. Not knowing what technical debt means and its implication is often one of the causes of technical debt.
- Giving priority to meeting deadlines over quality work. When there is too much pressure from the client, developers may at times take some shortcuts to meet the deadline instead of focusing on delivering quality work.
- Lack of proper code quality testing procedures
- Working under a strict budget, which is very common for startups
- Lack of proper collaborations within the team of developers
Now that we know what technical debt means and its common causes let's now get into how you can fix this problem.
How to resolve technical debt
1.Have a clear understanding of technical debt.
The first step to solving technical debt is ensuring that all stakeholders of the software development project have a clear understanding of what technical debt means and its implications. In this case, the stakeholders could be the software developers, their leaders, and sometimes the client.
When all these know what technical debt is and its implications, it is easier to prioritize allocated resources to fix this problem. One of the ways to make all stakeholders understand the implications of technical debt is by bringing it up during meetings and having a comprehensive discussion about it.
2.Adopt an agile approach
In software development, agility is when the project is executed in an incremental manner where different sections of code are delivered as soon as they are ready. This kind of approach helps to test code sooner when the project is still in the early stages. Agile development saves time compared to doing the tests when the project is more sophisticated.
When you discover that your project has technical debt, it is not too late to adopt this development strategy. By using the agile development methodology, you will prevent more technical debt from happening in the future.
3.Set coding standards ahead of time
Whether you are a single developer or a team leader, it is always necessary to set standards of how the result of the project should look like. These standards should be followed to fix any issues with the code that might be discovered along the way. When no standards are set, developers don't have a benchmark for measuring the quality of their code.
4.Having a separate team that reviews the code
If you have a big team, you can choose a few of the team members to play the quality assurance role. The quality assurance team should be tasked to review code at every stage of development to avoid having to deal with huge chunks of code when the project gets bigger. It is also important to ensure the team of developers and those doing quality assurance have effective communication all the time.
5.Doing automate tests
As technology is getting more advance, it is now possible to test the quality of code using automated software tools. Most of these tools can identify bugs and also recommend some changes that can be made to the code to improve its quality. These tools may not fully eliminate the technical debt, but they can help reduce it by a significant percentage.
One of the ways you can deal with technical debt is through constantly editing your code to improve its quality even if it doesn't create an immediate effect on the side of the users. Code refactoring is a good practice in software development that can gradually reduce technical debt.
If you are a developer or a team leader, it will add more value to your final output if you incorporate this practice into your day-to-day software development tasks. Code refactoring may increase the amount of time you spend on a project, but it would eliminate errors and other code quality issues which would have taken much more time to fix in the future.
Taking shortcuts to deliver a project may bring you short-term joy, but the long-term implications of this practice are very costly. As a developer or team leader, you must address the issues of technical debt as soon as you can. But remember, fixing technical debt can only be achieved when you accept that it exists and sitting down as a team to find the way forward.