How to Avoid Technical Debt
In software development, taking shortcuts is a dangerous route; one wrong turn and everything turns into a nightmare. In addition to that, an outdated system invites trouble into the fold. And if you don’t keep track of relevant developments, it can become technical debt. Its repercussions can transcend beyond monetary value. So here are some tips you can take note of to avoid this kind of problem.
Imagine a chef cooking a steak but is only given ten minutes with only two ingredients. Most times, it takes more or less 30 minutes to cook the meat to perfection. But since the culinarian is pressed for time, the meal is not as savory as it should be.
A software developer is like a chef when it comes to software development. The professional creates lines of code for the software to work upon its specific purpose. But when a project is rushed due to various reasons, it can result in a concept called technical debt.
It can cause irreparable damage if not dealt with properly. Fortunately, you can reduce your technical debt to remain competent. Learn what technical debt is to create a business strategy with the help of your software developers.
What is technical debt?
Technical debt describes the implied cost of reworking the software. It is the consequence of employing easy, limited solutions during software development to shorten the production time. Although the term is used mainly in software development, it can also be applied to other technological areas in different industries.
When it is not repaid immediately, its accrued interest makes it more challenging to implement changes. And if technical debt is not addressed over time, it leads to software entropy. How does it affect your product?
One predicted scenario is that your system can stop working at any time. If you’re using an outdated AI technology, its source code may be compromised leading to malfunctions. Your IT team cannot help you recover important data from an old system. Or worse, your system is vulnerable to cyber attacks, which can cost millions of dollars in legal battles. Furthermore, it damages your reputation.
Terms Used in Calculating Technical Debt
Take note of these terms when computing your technical debt. Whether it’s about your business software or other technology, they all fall in the same categories as defined below.
Principal cost is the term used for the cost of remediating the issues in your system. It is calculated through the formula:
Principal= (Number of hours to fix the issues) x (Hourly fee of everyone involved in the design, implementation, and testing of fixes)
The interest defines the total of ongoing costs during the implementation of fixes. It is the result of exhaustive methods in modifying complex or inefficient code. Other possible reasons include other relevant fixes to make the system run smoothly again.
Liability is the value of operational problems as a result of flaws in the system. It also entails the cost of the issues that were not previously listed due to underestimated risks.
It refers to the tradeoff that business owners and developers consider in planning fixes to the technical debt. Moreover, it includes the potential benefits if only time and effort were devoted to system maintenance.
It lists down the potential drawbacks when an issue causes a liability-inducing event. Business risk is the potential liability instead of possible IT costs.
As a startup owner, you must be proactive in using these terms and calculating your technical debt. Failing to conduct system maintenance and upgrades can make or break your business. Don’t wait for incorrect sales invoices, operational disturbance, and security breaches before you calculate your technical debt.
3 Types of Technical Debt
There are three kinds of technical debt that your business can incur. Find out the differences among them to get some idea on how to resolve them.
1. Deliberate Debt
Software or any business system has a complex development process. Therefore, some technical problems may not come up until its development and testing phase. And this is mostly due to the team going the “wrong way” or taking a shortcut during the development stage.
2. Outdated Design Debt
At times, this is also called accidental technical debt. You know how systems constantly evolve, right? So one day, you may realize that your design has issues or it needs new functionality. That is why team leads and startup owners must take into account this kind of tech debt.
3. Bit Rot Debt
This is what happens when developers assigned to the project are changed. It is a given that not everyone fully comprehends its original design. Hence, when the original creator goes away, things can be in limbo. So a proper transition period between developers is an important factor to avoid this kind of technical debt.
Tips to Avoid Technical Debt
It is important to be proactive when dealing with technical debt. Being in the loop when it comes to technology and maintenance requirements is an economical business strategy. It keeps your technical debt cost in check while making sure your system runs efficiently. But can you really avoid technical debt? How is that possible?
1. Create proper documentation.
Before a project starts or any updates are implemented, create a process document. It should detail the issues found, its planned fixes, and the results of the testing and implementation. Remember to update and maintain it regularly.
2. Take advantage of Agile practices.
Most of the traditional software development follows the waterfall model. But if you want to deliver value at a good pace, Agile practices are great solutions. The Agile methodology is driven by a shared commitment toward a common goal through collaboration. Moreover, the Agile model makes it easier for teams to accommodate relevant changes along the way.
3. Trust your developers.
A savvy businessman once said that if you don’t trust the people you hired, then you made the wrong recruitment decision. It is important to trust your development team to do their job. They have the skills and experience to create the system that you envision. The only thing you can do is provide a supportive and open environment for them to meet the set expectations for the project.
4. Avoid the temptation to save time and money.
Yes, you need the software done as soon as possible. And you need to scrimp up the budget for the project. But quality should not be the tradeoff in cutting corners. Therefore, be sensible in setting deadlines and funds for your product’s technological infrastructure.
5. Establish a good testing procedure.
It’s important to have proper checks and balances during each phase of the project. There must be a list of criteria to measure milestones and fixes. And never skip or take a shortcut in testing the software or system before deployment.
6. Set an annual system maintenance plan.
It’s easier to stay on top of updates and fixes as they occur when you have an annual plan. Ask for the help of your developers in planning its workaround. In addition to that, you should also set an annual budget ahead. This way, every time upgrade notifications arrive, you can easily act upon them accordingly.
7. Create an open communication system.
If anything feels wrong in your system, report it to your developers right away. This allows them to resolve any issue before it becomes a bigger problem. Most importantly, you should create an open two-way communication process. Issues are easily fixed if your developers can comfortably reach out to you for solutions and suggestions. Whether during the development stage or system maintenance, communication is the key to meet the project’s expectations.
Solve technical debt with proactive measures.
The problem comes when you continue to neglect your technical debt for an extended period of time. Don’t wait for it to become overwhelming that its damaging effects cost your software development business significant monetary value or beyond.
Therefore, it’s important to have a plan ahead and set aside a budget to resolve it. Work with your team to keep your system or software updated and running smoothly. Only by doing your due diligence can you avoid technical debt and get away from technical bankruptcy altogether.
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