What Is Technical Debt In Agile

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Software Engineering appears to be quite a lucrative career option. It indeed is- With professionals drawing pretty hefty paycheques and working in uber-cool glass offices, it remains as one of the top career choices in 2021. However, all that glitters is not gold. The extremely tight deadlines and work-pressure often take a toll on the health of Software Engineers. Add to that they are also sometimes overburdened by 'Technical Debt'. But wait a minute, are you also confused by what we mean by 'Technical Debt'. Don't worry, in this article, we will have a look at what is exactly meant by 'Techincal Debt', emphasizing especially in the context of agile methodology and how Engineering teams can get over and reduce Technical Debt.

The term 'Technical Debt' was coined by one of Agile Manifesto's authors, Ward Cunningham. 'Technical Debt' has now become a buzzword in the software industry, and it arises as a result of prioritizing speedy delivery over perfect code. Even if your code contains some serious bugs or is made in a legacy language, or there is no proper documentation available, all of these are categorized under Technical Debt. It refers to the additional development cost that is incurred due to reworking on the code, either in parts or complete.

But in hindsight, no code is perfect. But the question is, will we classify 'Technical Debt' as a recurring issue? There is no definite answer to this. Though Technical Debt is quite common in the software industry, experienced engineers believe it is more of a strategy and is probably deliberate.

As mentioned, the IT Industry is quite a competitive world. Engineers are always under pressure to deliver. There are strict deadlines to follow. In such a case, features become a priority than having a code that is perfect in all domains. Therefore, it is beneficial in the sense that the company earns the revenue even if there is a Technical Debt in place. However, the thing to note here is that a bad code is not classified as Technical Debt. But a mess is a mess and ultimately needs to be cleared- either today or in the near future. The concept is more or like financial debt or loans. Though loans can help you to meet your financial goals in the near future, there is always an extra burden of paying your EMIs on time. In either way, you need to pay and close your loan account.

Architecture Debt, Code Debt, Design Debt, Infrastructure Debt, etc., are some Technical Debt categories. Though having a technical debt is not necessarily a bad thing, but the future remains uncertain. Especially in teams following Agile Methodology, technical debt is not necessarily frowned upon. Agile concentrates more upon delivery of working software, so it is quite understandable that technical debt will arise. But since, agile moves in an iterative methodology, developers get an additional chance to fix the issues.

Technical Debt

Okay, enough of discussion on Technical Debt. But with every problem, there has to be a solution in place. There exist some well-known, tried, and tested solutions for technical debt. Let's have a look at some of them.

Redesigning Software Development Strategy

Technical Debt doesn't arise out of the blue. It keeps on adding itself over time, and when it becomes noticeable, the developers most probably have run out of time. The best thing to keep technical debt in control is to have a look at the coding style the moment a project is initiated. Senior developers should take the responsibility and guide Junior Developers to write better and well-managed code. If the Senior Developers find out that the coding practice is not what they expected, the weak points should be identified and the gaps must be filled. This should also involve one on one with the relevant stakeholders and the developers, and a new approach should be put in place to monitor the situation.

Another method is having your team to follow Agile Methodology. As mentioned earlier, the sprint-by-sprint approach will give developers more time to work on the code, thereby reducing technical debt by a significant amount.

Have proper documentation in place

With experience comes good coding practices. But documentation is something developers always laze around. The importance of having proper documentation in place cannot be emphasized. The attrition rate in the IT industry is at a higher rate, therefore, there is a good chance that the same developer who wrote the code will not refactor the code in case of technical debt. Therefore documentation plays a very important role. Documentation provides quick and easy access to any information that the developers need, which in turn helps them to refactor their code better which eventually will help in reducing technical debt and save from future troubles.

Automate Testing

Development and Testing go hand in hand. However, what we feel is that the development team often underestimates the power of testing and testers in general. No one writes perfect code, and frankly, no one is expected to be, and there are bound to be bugs in the program. The earlier they are caught, the better. Therefore, emphasis needs to be laid on Automated Testing. Testing at the right time will catch the potential bugs that may become hazardous in the long run. In this way, Technical Debt may be fixed at the right time.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and have learned something useful from it. Keep coding and try to avoid technical debt at all costs. Don’t fret if you ever encounter technical debt. Keep calm, and you will be soon out of the situation.

Updated on October 6, 2021