Last Updated: July 24, 2023
reduce technical debt
Published On: July 24, 2023

The cool breeze you feel on your hands when you wave out of your dream car is so fulfilling. The car loan you took for your dream car is a financial debt. But why are we talking about cars and financial debt? Well, technical debt is close to financial debt. It prevails consistently in the software development industry.

Understanding how to reduce technical debt is a big part of the solution. The stats show in a survey of 400 IT professionals, 86% reported an impact of Technical Debt in the past year, and it is on the rise.  

Technical Debt

The above graph shows that Technical Debt is the third inhibitor to digital transformation, rising from the sixth position in 2022. 

What is Technical debt?

Let’s take the same example above to explain technical debt in detail. The company incurs a financial loss when the car loan is kept unresolved for a long time. It occurs with increasing time and interest rates, making you pay a higher interest

Similarly, in software development, when the development team starts prioritizing speed over accurate coding. It leads to delayed execution of features and functionality. It’s a result of cutting corners and settling for suboptimal performance.

According to a report, developers spend over 17.3 hours a week debugging, restructuring, eradicating technical debt, and doing software maintenance tasks.

When speedy software delivery becomes a priority, it adds to code debt, aka tech debt. In such cases, developers tend to overlook the code quality, leaving the code with some defects. The mentality of “build now, fix later” results in refactoring the additional development work in the custom software development process. 

When the development team leaders know the defects, they try to address them within the deadline. But sometimes, it becomes a tech debt knowingly due to reasons like client pressure to release the software or other things. The positive is that you get the app within the deadline. The negative is you get tech debt to address in the custom software journey. 

Fact Check!

Ward Cunningham coined the term “Technical Debt.” Very later on, Martin Fowler gave the term “Cruft.” 

The above explained is a general scenario, but we need to understand that reducing technical debt doesn’t mean skimming through the code again and taking out all of the cruft at once. Here there is some dissimilarity from the financial debt. You see, financial debt is a liability you need to pay off, but in the case of TD, it is unnecessary. 

Suppose a part of coding is poorly written and has accumulated much TD, but that section is rarely used. It won’t trigger the interest payment.

On the contrary, if a coding piece is required more often, it becomes necessary to make it cruft-free to avoid triggering the interest payments like developer’s efficiency and time delay.

But The Question is, Why?

Technical debt issues might potentially set off a domino effect that spreads to other departments. A problem that begins in the development phase may have an impact on the procedures and personnel involved in other crucial business operations, including production, order fulfillment, and shipment.

Code Maintenance

Technical debt may be advantageous or even necessary in certain circumstances. If a project must be finished rapidly to meet a deadline or if a problem cannot be resolved immediately, a business may determine it is worthwhile to incur. Teams must strike a balance between making quick judgments and doing quality work.

Causes of Technical Debt

There are various causes for the generation of tech debt. 

Business Causes

The company’s evolving environment and business objectives heavily influence product development. You may occasionally need to shorten timelines or lower prices to accomplish specific objectives. Of course, technical debt could result from this.

The product development plan, for instance, is impacted by shifting goals and product strategy. Due to new priority initiatives, it is occasionally essential to modify technical solutions only partially or to drop certain technologies, which might result in sizable technical debt.

Development Causes

During the development phase, there may be an accumulation of code flaws. The product’s needs, primary characteristics, and top priorities may also alter during development. Occasionally, it doesn’t require immediate correction, but it leads to technical debt (TD).

A mistake by the development team can lead to cruft accumulation. Due to increased TD, the predefined goals are not met, worsening the situation further.  

New technologies are also developing quickly; it makes it difficult for a team to easily adopt them. In contrast, older software also needs upgrades; Moon Technolabs, for instance, may assist you with the right upgrades. Therefore, you must either alter the technology stack or develop brand-new, better solutions, while adapting to evolving tech specifications.

Development Team Causes

Technical debt can develop for several reasons, sometimes even when the development teams become too careful. The primary cause is not an individual employee’s subpar work. In most cases, TD increases because the development team needs to scale up since it lacks expertise or certain specialists.

Sometimes, developer talents need to be more utilized, and the burden needs to be allocated appropriately. Since the software development team simply needs more time to execute more intricate and successful solutions, they choose to forego them in favor of quicker product delivery.

Resource Causes

Sometimes, developers are pressed for time and seek out practical solutions. In other situations, the group needs more information and resources to identify the best technological solution. Therefore, temporary substitution gives you extra time to develop a more effective strategy.

Of course, each product has its unique characteristics; therefore, the reasons for TD may vary. When developing a technical debt reduction strategy, it is crucial to consider it.

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Types of tech debt

Types of tech debt

Architectural Technical Debt

This sort of TD, as its name suggests, pertains to the complete system design as well as the product architecture. It expands as a result of misaligned software development life cycles (SDLC), incorrect understanding of the requirements for architecture, or lack of knowledge about complex system solutions.

To deal with such problems, businesses frequently employ specialized software engineers and analysts. They can assess the extent of the required transformation, provide methods for modernization, and address systemic issues.

Infrastructure Debt

Such debt builds up as a result of infrastructure and its code flaws, multiple CI/CD pipeline violations, improper analysis of the capabilities and requirements of the infrastructure, etc. Typically, this causes serious issues with deployment and operation.

Reducing technical debt in infrastructure is a task for DevOps experts. They assist in setting up CI/CD pipelines and balancing the testing and development processes.

Code Debt

Everything is straightforward: a TD like this is all about code. These include duplicates, lengthy methods, basic inexperience, and flaws resulting from the source code errors and those they cause.

Refactoring is frequently used to address these problems in order to modernize the system without impacting its infrastructure or functioning and identify the root causes of debt. Solving code debt, however, depends on the particular situation and volume of labor.

Maintenance debt

Maintenance debt, which is the result of several inefficiencies built over time, is another name for long-term debt.

When businesses put off making improvements, it reaches an inflection point where it becomes challenging to add new features. This is when maintenance debt typically arises.

When there’s a design complication without knowledge or purpose, it is said to be introduced incidentally. Software entropy is the unpaid technical debt resulting from the accumulation of numerous intentional and careless debts.

Developer efficiency debt

When system maintenance and tech debt reduction take up the majority of a developer’s work, efficiency and productivity suffer. Stats show that 13.5 hrs. are  

Test debt

Testing is one of the most crucial phases of product development, but even here, technical debt can build up. It typically happens when the tested and actual codes are not aligned or when non-critical flaws are ignored. Additionally, the absence of automation, which might hasten and greatly increase the efficiency of the testing process, maybe the cause of the expansion of TD in this instance.

Thus, process automation, more thorough testing, and regular testing all aid in lowering technical debt. Again, as every situation is unique, it is preferable to seek the help of knowledgeable QA engineers to resolve issues.

Stability debt

Improved user experience is mainly dependent on stable software. Technical debt, however, can impair the stability of the software. Here, assessing the reliability of the software and the effect of technical debt is crucial.

Due to limited third-party services, quickly written code, or a lack of a testing strategy, tech debt might compromise the reliability of your program. Therefore, it is undeniable that stable apps are necessary for improved conversion rates. Because of this, it’s critical to lower the tech debt that undermines stability.

Security debt

Organizations may shield their digital assets and services from disruption and cyberattacks by implementing software security. However, organizations with quick development processes frequently need to pay more attention to the security component.

Security debt can slow developers’ work and weigh down IT teams over time. Companies must therefore apply the necessary security fixes to restrict cyberattacks and lower technical debt.

Decision debt

Debts resulting from decisions come in a variety of forms. For instance, a bad debt is created when an entity makes a decision today that will have negative effects tomorrow. Unattended actionable events are another choice debt. When the necessary action is not taken, issues inevitably worsen.

Decision debt is the most important since it affects all technical debts.

How Can Technical Debt Impact Your Business?

Hidden Technical Debt

The TD is like an iceberg, as seen in the image above. It deepens as we go down. The effects and risks associated with technical debt make us understand why it is important to reduce technical debt. 

Effects And Risks of Technical Debt

The effects of TD are inevitable. They not only affect the software if left unresolved but also have some serious consequences for the business.

  • Increased bugs
  • Increased development cost
  • Increased security risks

Let’s Make It Simple

There are some quantitative factors like bugs, costs, or risks. These are measurable and can be quantified. But qualitative factors like productivity, ignorance, or knowledge gaps can’t be measured. The interest payment of human-induced factors is immeasurable and is paid in the form of excessive efforts made by developers.

The quantitative entities can be regulated. You can try reducing costs but can’t exceed the maximum level of effort or ignorance. The interest payment of TD manifests itself in the form of human efforts, human delays, or human-induced factors.   

Financial effects of technical debt

Some factors for financial effects are:

  • Decreased customer retention due to bugged software
  • Increased development cost
  • Decreased developer efficiency leads to more cost (to understand how developer efficiency is related to cost).
  • Increased customer support cost.

How To Reduce Technical Debt in Development Process

Track Your Tech Debt

Keeping track of the TD leads you to the recovery path. Now you know the problem, the next obvious step is to reduce the problem and manage it. The following areas are examined to keep track of TD.

  • Code reviews
  • Bugs
  • Cycle time
  • TD ratio
  • And finally, addressing the TD in my spare time.

The Triple C’s

Code reviews – Frequent code reviews are essential for greater code quality, which is an effective step in “how to reduce technical debt?”

Code quality – The general code quality can be determined by calculating cyclomatic complexity.

Code Coverage – The coverage metric also helps identify the amount of executed code. This is again responsible for contributing to good code quality.

Bugs

The quantity of open and closed bugs must be counted. After comparing, you may see how successfully issues are removed and determine how to make the testing process better.

Code Churn and Cycle Time

The code churn analytics reveal how frequently code lines have been modified since the product’s introduction. It’s important to identify the mistakes that are made, where and how frequently they occur, and how quickly the team can correct them.

Cycle time is the interval from deployment to the initial commit. The faster the code runs and the lesser the technical debt. 

Technical Debt Ratio

You can calculate the technical debt ratio (TDR), or the ratio of the cost of restoring the system to the cost of its development, based on these parameters. You can estimate the cost of the technical debt in the future in this way. It is essential to know how much money and how much time engineers will need to spend reducing technical debt.

Addressing The Reduction of Tech Debt in Spare Time

It becomes essential to reduce technical debt in spare time. We have discussed why it is important to address TD. But working on the cruft in the spare time enhances the code quality and has fewer triggers for future interest payment, hampering the developer’s efficiency and killing more time. It becomes even more necessary in the case of custom software development as the software is customized according to the user’s need. 

Time Spent on Technical Debt

The above image shows that 90% of the time is spent on reducing technical debt, and just 10% is employed on innovation.

How To Manage Technical Debt in Custom Software Development

1. Communication With Stakeholders

Efficient management needs proper communication.

Technical debt management is not novel in this regard: you must convey to non-IT stakeholders the need for timely repayment of TD. Therefore, a TD’s initial evaluation will help illustrate its existing scope, characteristics, root causes, and remediation options.

Some famous remedial techniques include Agile culture or DevOps culture. 

2. Rethink The Software Development Strategy

Each particular organization’s needs must be considered while designing a software development strategy. When it comes to custom software development projects, it is a fundamental step taken by app development companies.

Moon Technolabs makes it a point to find a balance between expectations and results to integrate best practices into your custom software development process. In order to steadily enhance your builds with agile development, a middle ground may be lacking when your manager questions the delays in deployment-ready releases.

Agile is an effective strategy for lowering technical debts because of its iterative process. You go through quick iterations, incorporating customer feedback throughout each one as you go. As a result, the total quantity of TD is decreased, and each cycle results in greater overall improvement.

3. Data Analytics – Relying on Numbers

Making data-based decisions is always the greatest strategy for lowering technical debt. However, Which data to follow is the largest dilemma that most firms face.

  • Keep track of, evaluate, and data on program performance
  • Keep track of all software bugs and errors.
  • Record all security flaws and coding problems.
  • Determine the price of each repair.
  • assemble information on every operation disruption.
  • By analyzing all the data gathered, be more prepared to lower technical debt for your software development initiatives.

4. Better to Refactor the Source Code

Any firm must make a serious choice regarding source code refactoring. It aids in lowering technical debt in software or custom software development.

Therefore, it could take longer; but if you rework your code gradually, the result will be better. Agile procedures are the greatest option, especially if you want to keep up with the newest technologies. Re-architecting is the necessary answer for the “how to reduce technical debt” query. If you’re considering replacing the system, it is better to refactor the source code with Agile methodology or DevOps methodology. 

5. Restructure The Architecture.

Software evolution is the main focus of development today. The significance of a good architectural design is restructuring. However, architecture that needs restructuring and isn’t adaptable enough to accommodate modifications may accrue expensive technical debt that must be repaid. In light of this, Moon Technolabs uses easily scalable designs, like microservices and container-based architecture, to easily add new features at the start of an agile iteration for a release.

6. Recoding and Automated testing

Modern software development processes aren’t complete without automated testing, which is a tried-and-true way to find bugs in the code as soon as feasible. Automated tests with thorough coverage can serve as a regression suite, informing engineers when previously functional components stop working.

The benefits of automated testing, especially unit testing, are endless. It can increase quality independently but also act as the foundation for additional quality-improving techniques like code restructuring.

7. Agile Development Approach

There is a case for the Agile approach to reduce technical debt because it is inherently close to track. Technical debt can also be managed in an agile culture where work is provided in numerous iterations with new features and problem fixes. Smaller tasks could assist in paying off debt over time.

Of course, keeping a backlog of unfinished work is a good idea. In the long run, the concept of “done” and test automation may also be useful to pay off technical debt using the Agile methodology. Regarding technical debt, agile teams view “done” as being ready for release, which calls for stringent oversight.

8. DevOps Helps To Avoid Technical Debt.

Technical debt can be avoided with the help of the DevOps culture and environment. It is more difficult to disregard technological obstacles and to make decisions and solve problems while keeping the business objectives in mind thanks to continuous development, testing, and the integration of operations and development. DevOps methodology proves to be a good solution while considering the management of TD.

How does Moon Technolabs reduce your tech debt?

 Multiple factors to reduce technical data are tracking the TD, reviewing the code, analyzing the data, refactoring, and others are implemented. But for such data analysis and code skimming, you need experts in the field. Moon Technolabs, with years of expertise and skills in software development projects, can help in reducing technical debt and enhance code quality, especially in custom software development projects.

FAQs

There are many factors included in reducing TD. Various metrics, like code complexity metrics, etc., ensure the successful reduction of technical debt by the development and operations teams in the custom software development process.

Modern techniques like Agile culture and DevOps culture are some tools that help manage TD.

There are broadly two types - Intentional and Unintentional tech debt. But other types are like architecture debt, development debt and many more.
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Jayanti Katariya

Jayanti Katariya is the CEO of Moon Technolabs, a fast-growing IT solutions provider, with 18+ years of experience in the industry. Passionate about developing creative apps from a young age, he pursued an engineering degree to further this interest. Under his leadership, Moon Technolabs has helped numerous brands establish their online presence and he has also launched an invoicing software that assists businesses to streamline their financial operations.

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