A Guide to Technical Debt Management

Purva Mishra | July 27, 2021

technical debt management guide
In the ‘new normal’ world, digitalization is the core reason to drive businesses to success. As a result, these emerging technologies have given rise to technical debt. Of course, technical debt has always been a part of every IT and non-IT organization. But the evolution of the IT world has made companies invest more time to think about reducing tech debt.

As the term consists of the word- debt, it gives a picture of being negative. Thus, technical debt is more or less like financial debt, but it also has good aspects.

In this article, we will talk all about technical debt management and ways to deal with it.

What Is Technical Debt?

When a code design is not neat, has disjointed data structures, and is of poor quality, it gives rise to technical debt.

If a code is designed in a hurry to meet strict deadlines, it may be written clumsily. For that particular period, the software may work perfectly well, but it starts bugging and stops working with time. And it becomes a difficult task to decode the coding and understand the problem as the code was not written neatly.

The accumulation of work due to short-term decisions, unrealistic deadlines,  shortage of resources, or just ‘lazy work’ leads to technical debt.

Every organization has technical debt. Take note that this debt can never be zero. But the important part is to deal with technical debt management. It cannot be ‘paid off’ entirely but can be minimized and managed.

Types of Technical Debt

Various reasons lead to technical debt. Some are deliberate, and some are accidental. Whatever is the reason, if you notice any of the below actions implemented in your organization, consider it as a red flag. Then, identify the reasons for technical debt for precise technical debt management.

Complex Architecture

This is one primary reason that leads to technical debt. Of course, the coding should be precise and straightforward. But sometimes, due to limited time and resources, a complex architecture is created even for the simplest code. And if not mended with time, this leads to various problems along with technical debt.

Thus complexity in products, processes, and applications should be simplified with time.

Software Entropy

This is also known as bit-rot. Software entropy occurs when developers write codes for the updates of the same software. As a result, the coding gains maximum complexity. And after a point, it gets unsolvable. Thus the software quality deteriorates, leading to errors and reduced usability.

The solution to this is refactoring, which we will discuss later in the article.

Accidental Tech Debt

This type of tech debt occurs when there is sudden evolution in technology. For example, if the code was simple and precise but not meant to be adapted or updated with the changing scenario, accidental technical debt occurs. It leads to a wastage of time and resources in the future.

Thus, this debt is resolved by dedicating time to update the code and system quickly.

Ways to Handle Technical Debt Management

When the engineering or developer’s team takes shortcuts to meet deadlines or finish the project early, it leads to more work in the long run. We understand that sometimes these demands are unavoidable, but the team needs to come back and resolve the issues to save the organization from technical debt.

For starters, an organization must identify the causes of technical debt and deal with them accordingly.

Here are some of the ways of technical debt management and how to manage them in the future.

Identify the Source

The best way to avoid and tackle technical debt is to identify the source. This can be done by having a conversation with the team as to why this debt occurred?

For example, if the IT team was asked to design healthcare software within two months due to the project's urgency, the team will say that the reason for complex coding was the time constraints.

As a result, you are identifying technical debt sources. They may have occurred due to time, resources, or system constraints. Once you identify the root cause, there is always a way to go back and solve the issue to avoid getting buried in technical debt. This is the first step towards technical debt management.

Track Technical Debt

You will be appalled to know that 7% of organizations track technical debt to minimize them. And they are a significant success.

Tracking technical debt is as important as identifying it. When a team keeps track of technical debt, it is easy for them to forecast the time and resources required to pay it off.

Digital Documentation

This is building a roadmap while writing code. It makes sure that the entire team is on the same page while developing the software. The benefit of this documentation is that whenever there is an update or an error wherein the entire code requires to be reworked, it gets easier for any developer to work on it. This is a precise way to prevent the tech-debt burden.

Maintain Agility & Testing

This technique is paving the way for technical debt management. However, developing agile software and maintaining its agility through time are two different things. To reduce the technical debt, you need to maintain software agility by updating it on a timely basis. But be sure to make this update process clean and qualitative.

Try not to skip testing of the software for whatsoever reasons. Testing of the software is essential to stop the build-up of technical debt. However, do not substitute manual testing for automated testing. It can prove to be a significant hurdle in the team’s agile process.

Refactoring

Dedicate time to understand and pay off technical debt. Even when you avoid errors and follow all the suitable approaches, there are chances of technical debt. Sometimes these may happen due to the client’s urgent demands or limited bandwidth to perform tasks. Whenever this happens, take out time and treat technical debt as a business problem and not a technical one. This is an intelligent way of handling technical debt management.

Refactoring means going back to the developed codes in haste for many reasons and cleansing them. This does not affect the external working of the code but cleans the code and makes it future-ready. Furthermore, such timely cleaning of codes reduces technical debt significantly.

How Is Technical Debt Good?

Technical debt is not always bad. Sometimes the code building is done in haste and works precisely the way it should. The updating of codes is also seamless. At such times technical debt is regarded as a good thing. This usually happens in applications that have simple processes.

Technical debt is also good in software that requires timely development and not bug fixes.

The Conclusion

Technical debt is required to stay ahead in the competition. But see to it that it is tackled and minimized in the best possible way. Procrastination is the enemy of success. And this is highly true in the case of technical debt. It will get more expensive the longer you hold it.

So ensure that your team takes out regular time from their schedule for minimizing technical debt. Technical debt management will help your team to perform better, improve agility and deliver exceptional results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What drives tech debt?

Tech debt occurs when the team cannot write a clean code due to deadlines or limited resources. The tech debt worsens if the team does not go back and dedicate time to clean the code.

How do you handle tech debt?

There are specific ways to handle technical debt. These include:
  • Identifying the reasons that led to technical debt
  • Integrate metrics in your strategy
  • Digital documentation
  • Refactoring
  • Knowing that tech debt is not always bad


What are the types of technical debt?

There are majorly three main types of technical debt.
  • Deliberate creation of complex software
  • Software entropy
  • Accidental tech debt

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Evoke Technologies is an innovative information technology services firm offering world-class software solutions. We are a client-centric and relationship-based company with a focus to provide cost effective software maintenance and support. We are SEI-CMMI Level 3, ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 compliant IT enterprise that focuses on quality and delivering business value. Incorporated in the year 2003, Evoke has been actively helping global corporations to innovate and transform their businesses utilizing IT. Our core technology services include:

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Spotlight

Evoke Technologies

Evoke Technologies is an innovative information technology services firm offering world-class software solutions. We are a client-centric and relationship-based company with a focus to provide cost effective software maintenance and support. We are SEI-CMMI Level 3, ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 compliant IT enterprise that focuses on quality and delivering business value. Incorporated in the year 2003, Evoke has been actively helping global corporations to innovate and transform their businesses utilizing IT. Our core technology services include:

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