Tuesday, 18 January 2022 11:20

Technical debt – what is it caused by?

Technical debt Technical debt pixabay

Very often, the term ‘technical debt’ is used in software development. It usually describes delayed maintenance costs that are caused by initial tradeoffs between speed and quality.

For most people, debt usually carries negative connotations with images of loans, mortgage payments or bills coming to mind. However, it is a bit different with technical debt. Let’s explain what it is and what the causes of technical debt are.

What is technical debt?

Technical debt is what happens when a development team speeds up the delivery of a project that will require refactoring later. The process of development is much more important than high-quality code. The development process that is rushed may cause the code to have certain deficiencies that the developer will have to rework or clean up later on. These deficiencies will of course affect the overall code quality. Thus, the code itself cannot reach its full potential until the deficiencies are fixed. Summing up, technical debt is the result of prioritizing speedy delivery over perfect code. Like financial debt, technical debt can either harm or help your company. There are three types of technical debt: deliberate technical debt (when it’s all about reducing the time to market), accidental tech (not a deliberate decision, it is caused by a by-product of evolving technology and changes in requirements) and bit rot technical debt (it usually happens when too many developers work on one task without coming together to look at the big picture).

Causes of technical debt 

The most common reasons for technical debt are:

  • Time pressure – when you have to market as quickly as possible so that your development team even shortchange performance.
  • Constant change – it’s because of growing customer expectations or cyber threats and new market opportunities.
  • Old technology – some languages, libraries or frameworks may become obsolete pr not supported each year.
  • Overly complex technical design.
  • Poor alignment to standards or suboptimal code.
  • Delayed refactoring or insufficient testing.
  • Developers not following the standards and good practices (like SOLID in PHP).

How to manage technical debt?

Let’s be honest – we cannot say that technical debt is something really bad. It is neither good nor bad. Most software and development teams are under pressure from the market and competitive forces to develop and deliver software and applications fast. In order to efficiently work with technical debt, follow the rules:

  1. Maintain high code quality – technical debt is common for businesses with no high-level technician management.
  2. Keep strong architecture.
  3. Don’t forget about quality assurance.
  4. Remove redundancies and optimize performance during the refactoring process of regularly re-writing components.