What is Technical Debt and Why is it Important to Address?

What Is Technical Debt?

In today’s fast-paced business world, companies are working relentlessly to stay ahead of the competition through developing new products, upgrading existing systems, and growing their operations. However, these efforts have frequently come at a cost. One of the greatest challenges that IT professionals face is technical debt (Tech debt). Technical debt refers to accrued costs that occur when software development employees take shortcuts or make compromises within the process to meet critical business demands. Technical debt is a widespread issue in the software development industry, and it can create a substantial impact on IT infrastructure. Technical debt could weaken efficiency and reliability of IT infrastructure, making it more challenging for companies to achieve their business objectives.

What Causes Technical Debt?

The underlying causes of technical debt can fluctuate depending on the company. Some of the most frequent causes of technical debt include:

  • Tight deadlines: When development teams are pressured to deliver projects at a rapid pace, they may take shortcuts or skip crucial steps in the process. By taking these shortcuts and skipping steps, it can cause issues when IT infrastructure is created.  Inadequate concern for scalability, maintainability, and future needs can result in infrastructure that is challenging to upgrade or maintain.
  • Lack of resources: When companies continue to use outdated technology, it may lead to increased production of technical debt. Vendors might be able to no longer support existing systems due to many existing systems having increased security vulnerabilities. These existing systems might not be able to integrate well with advanced tools and systems. Additionally, development teams may lack the time and expertise required to develop the software systems accurately.
  • Poor communication: When there is an absence of communication between the development team and business stakeholders, it can cause confusion and inaccuracies in the development process. Additionally, when IT infrastructure is not properly documented by the development team, it can be difficult to maintain and upgrade over time. This may create technical debt by requiring additional time and resources to grasp and modernize the infrastructure. Additionally, when departments within a company do not work together and communicate efficiently, it can lead to the duplication of effort and discrepancies in the infrastructure.

Why Is Technical Debt Important to Address?

Regardless of the cause, technical debt can create serious implications for IT infrastructure. Some of the most frequent effects of technical debt include:

  • Reduced performance: Technical debt can slow down IT infrastructure making it less sensitive to the user’s needs. It often leads to a code that is complicated to comprehend and maintain. Such complexity can make it more difficult for developers to work on the code, which will lead to lengthier development times and higher costs. As complexity increases and performance decreases, it may take more time and be more costly to update features or fix bugs. This may also result in elevated maintenance fees over time, as the code becomes more complicated to maintain and requires additional time and resources to continue operating smoothly.
  • Increased maintenance costs: Technical debt can raise the cost of maintaining IT infrastructure over time as departments work to fix bugs and deal with other problems. If maintenance is not taken care of correctly, the cost to fix it rapidly accrues – occasionally leading to operational failure. Technical debt should not be overlooked, in time it will often become incredibly costly and difficult to fix. Formulating an effective strategy for preventing, managing, and resolving technical debt issues in a timely manner is needed to guarantee long-term success. This can reduce costs for your company overall as it increases efficiencies and reduces impending maintenance costs.
  • Decreased reliability: One of the greatest threats to IT reliability is technical debt, which arises when a company miscalculates how much time a software project will take and invested too much in instant solutions instead of thinking about the system as a whole. This issue may rapidly lead to reduced speed, inefficient systems, and vulnerable security; not only does this reduce reliability but it can cause severe disruptions in service for employees and external customers. That is why it is essential for companies to actively combat technical debt if they want their IT infrastructure to stay stable and reliable over time.

How to Avoid Technical debt?

To avoid the adverse impacts of technical debt, companies must take a proactive approach to software development and IT infrastructure management. This may involve:

  • Prioritizing software quality: Having high-quality software is critical for a company to be successful in the digital age, yet sometimes these vital elements of software development go unnoticed. When departments are focused on delivering a product rapidly, the quality measure may be overlooked. By prioritizing software quality, development teams will be able to produce reliable systems that will satisfy users. Taking time to concentrate on scalability and maintenance at the same time allows functions to be improved rapidly and with a reduced amount of effort than having to rebuild a system from scratch.
  • Regular maintenance: Maintaining IT infrastructure is essential for any company. Without it, technical debt can rapidly accrue as outdated systems become more prone to vulnerable to security attacks and software problems. Regular maintenance ensures IT systems are operating smoothly, conserving money and time in the long term by avoiding expensive fixes that may arise from insufficient maintenance. Taking proactive steps to preserve the infrastructure also results in enhanced user experience with minimal disruption to business operations.
  • Collaboration: Development teams and business stakeholders need to work together to ensure that projects are aligned with business requirements and goals. When development teams and business stakeholders collaborate, they can simultaneously bring their own unique viewpoints to the project, which may produce an improved outcome. By promoting an atmosphere of collaboration, development teams are given the opportunity to offer innovative solutions that have a strong foundation in reality, while stakeholders supply the insight and understanding to ensure the solutions fit the long-term goals of their company. This level of collaboration helps to prevent expensive disagreements later, as well as making sure that all involved parties are kept well informed of changes during the project.

How to Measure Technical Debt?

Measuring technical debt can be a complex task. It involves taking into account the cost of the code that was initially written and then accounting for additional costs related to maintaining, updating, and refactoring it. An initial way to measure technical debt is to assess the quality of code according to established standards or metrics such as lines of code (LOC), cyclomatic complexity, coupling, and cohesion. These measurements are then combined to get an overall rating of how much work needs to be done in order to reduce existing technical debt. This approach is often called “technical debt ratio” (TDR).

Another way to measure technical debt is by tracking development velocity against deadlines. If a project takes longer than expected, it may point towards a high level of technical debt that has accumulated over time. Additionally, if certain bugs or feature requests consistently require more effort than they should, this could be an indication that there is significant technical debt that needs attention.

In addition to these methods for measuring technical debt, software engineering teams should also look at their history of refactoring efforts and the number of defects that were found during those activities. Teams should also examine how often they conduct code reviews and automated tests as part of their development process since these activities are closely related to the amount of technical debt present in their codebase. Finally, teams should track metrics such as test coverage and static analysis results to get an overall picture of their current state of technical health.

How to Manage Technical Debt?

Technical debt accumulates in several ways. First, when a team is working against a tight deadline there is often a temptation to take shortcuts or overlook lower-priority issues, leading to an accumulation of unresolved bugs and unfinished tasks. This backlog can become so large that it becomes unmanageable, making the problem worse over time. Second, developers may be tempted to make quick and easy fixes for higher-priority issues with the intention of addressing them properly later. However, due to ongoing time constraints these tasks may never be addressed, resulting in technical debt accumulating as code complexity increases. Third, as existing codebases become more complex over time and technologies change rapidly, teams may find themselves creating innovative solutions without proper consideration of the impact on existing systems which can also contribute to technical debt accumulating. Finally, teams that fail to implement proper version control processes or enforce coding standards are more likely to find themselves with mounting technical debt as projects progress.

Some technical debt is not always bad. In fact, taking on an appropriate amount of technical debt can benefit a business or development project, as it allows for faster iteration and implementation in the short-term. Taking on reasonable amounts of technical debt can also help to keep teams agile and competitive in dynamic markets. That said, it is important to manage any technical debt that has been assumed, as unmanaged debt can quickly become an expensive problem that erodes the foundation of the codebase over time. Therefore, it is essential to weigh the costs and benefits of taking on any form of technical debt before making a decision.

How We Can Help?

At PSM Partners, we believe that taking a proactive approach to managing technical debt and IT infrastructure is critical for long-term success. We offer a range of services to help organizations address these challenges, including software and system updates, ongoing maintenance and security measures, and infrastructure reviews and updates. We understand the complexities of IT infrastructure and the challenges that can arise from technical debt. That’s why we work closely with our clients to develop customized solutions that meet their unique needs and help them stay ahead of the curve.

So if you’re ready to take your IT infrastructure to the next level and address your technical debt head-on, contact us today. We’ll help you develop a plan of action that fits your budget and timeline, and we’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure a smooth and successful implementation. Don’t let technical debt hold you back – let us help you move forward with confidence! To learn more, call PSM at (312) 940-7830 or submit a contact form today.

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