When a team of developers opts for cost-effectiveness and speed in the development of software or in the establishment of an IT infrastructure, this savings can lead to technical debt. Technical debt refers to the consequences of intentional or unintentional negligence, errors and faults in the code. Necessary corrections and maintenance after the event slow down productivity and lead to costly additional work . You can get in touch with Best Debt Advice In London
Why do we talk about technical debt?
The metaphor of technical debt was introduced in 1992 by programmer and co-author of the manifesto for agile software development Ward Cunningham. With this image, W. Cunningham wanted to emphasize how essential code refactoring , i.e. regular code correction, is for software. This refactoring is the only way to prevent software from accumulating ever more significant functional defects and structural flaws .
The term “debts” also implies interest. Indeed, from a financial point of view, the technical debt is not without consequences for the company initiating the project. Technical debt translates not only into additional work and reduced productivity due to subsequent maintenance, but also into additional costs. The more the team management neglects the maintenance of a faulty IT infrastructure or application, the greater the interest generated by the debt and the more costly the corrections of the code will prove to be.
Definition: Technical debt
Technical debt refers to intentional or unintentional errors, flaws, and defects in code . These failures are generated by a lack of communication, supervision, qualification or by hasty delivery of products and continue to grow in the absence of refactoring of the code.
What are the causes of technical debts?
Although technical debts generally have similar consequences on software development, their causes are nevertheless multiple.
- Failing quality management: here, the projects do not include control, measurement and testing mechanisms to guarantee quality, which results in a continuous accumulation of debts.
- Economic pressure: Economic factors and rapid development are prioritized here due to customer insistence or due to competitive pressure and writing clean code is neglected.
- Lack of skills: The technical knowledge of the developer team does not meet the requirements for clean and elegant code. This lack of knowledge results in smell codes or spaghetti programming.
- Insufficient documentation/communication: The development process is performed without parallel documentation of code extensions and changes. Also, changes in the code are not saved or communicated to subsequent programmers. Possibilities for rework are limited, if not non-existent.
- Deferred refactoring: Deliberately accepted technical debts are not corrected on time because code refactoring is neglected or postponed.
- Parallel application development: Parallel development steps put together without coordination lead to increased technical debt.
- Overly complex code: Sections of code are overly complicated and illogical. The slightest change can cause other errors and increase debts. In the worst case, this programming can also result in a spaghetti code.
- Unstructured development process: Application development begins before any concrete design or processes have been defined or decided upon.
- Outsourcing of the code: the development stages are delocalized. Errors appear in the code when the different sections are put together. These errors are either accepted or concealed by the management of the team.
- Short-term changes during the process: For timing reasons, short-term changes are not tested.
How does technical debt affect software development?
The consequences of technical debts are those that we know for financial credits. A debt that is not paid regularly and on time leads to interests that are expressed in a slowdown in development, a drop in productivity and an increase in costs.
Therefore, it is in the interest of the customer to supplement the development with comprehensive and sustainable quality management and to monitor the development so that faster and cheaper realization and release of products is not paid for by costly subsequent error corrections or by halting development.
How to avoid technical debts?
Due to new technologies and changing approaches in software development, technical debts cannot be entirely excluded. They are even tolerated if they make it possible to publish programs and applications quickly and regularly without attaching teams to projects on a long-term basis. However, there are preventive measures to avoid or reduce the formation and increase of technical debts:
- use standardized code refactoring and quality management processes,
- use constantly updated error detection and analysis tools,
- keep technical knowledge up to date through continuous training or define the composition of the team according to qualifications,
- design the code clearly by dividing it into classes and using understandable methods and write the code in a readable way for new programmers integrating the project or for external programmers,
- assign clear responsibilities and properly distribute tasks between teams to avoid duplication, redundancy and counterproductive work steps,
- keep IT architecture current through constant monitoring, analysis and quality control.