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Proven Methods to Reduce Technical Debt: Best Practices by Altamira

  • 11-12 min read
  • June 15, 2022
  • 👍 Rating — 5 (3 votes)

Technical debt is common for scalable and long-term software projects where the initially defined project scope may change like the range of system functions, fastened deadline to system delivery and launch, postponing some tasks for later execution, etc.

The main risk about growing technical debt is that it can grow into a hunger problem for the software solution with no possibility to fix it partially if you are going to resolve the issues in time. As a result, your system stops working correctly, providing lots of unfixable bags, unfeasible features, poor-quality code, or legacy code that cannot be re-used.

No changes can be taken promptly and effectively, as the resolving of delayed tech debt can last for a long time, requiring much investment. Even if the technical debt doesn’t seem to be massive like project document updates, we ensure you will face more unrelieved troubles during the system maintenance and further upgrades than you think now.

So we are to start by figuring out what technology is in detail, why technical debt arises, how to address technical debt, and how to reduce technical debt during the development process.

What is technical debt?

Technical debt is the backlog of technical tasks during the software development process that appear due to the changing of priorities on the particular project.

Commonly, the software development process follows according to the initially defined plan, where each part of the solution functionality has particular requirements and strict deadlines to be executed. However, the priorities may change, and the plan can be amended, so some project parts will be delayed while others should be built promptly due to some concerts appearing during the development. That’s how technical debt accumulates.

Nevertheless, preparing technical debt is obligatory, and delayed feature development must be executed anyway. And if you will continue to ignore these tasks, the consequences can be really negative for your software solution and managing technical debt as well

Types of technical debt

Basically, the technical debt can be divided into two groups – predicted and unpredicted. What are more types of technical debt, and how to manage technical debt according to its type? Let’s dig deeper and discuss the following point.

types of technical debt

 


Planned technical debt
Planned technical debt entails consistent delays of some tasks and steps during a particular stage of the software development life cycle in order to meet more prioritized demands of the project. Such delays may have some risks and negative consequences for the software functionality. It is pivotal to consider all the delays to perform them later in order to save true cost and address technical debt.
Unintentional technical debt
Unintentional technical debt happens due to poor communication and understanding between different development teams and a client. Creating technical debt of this type is manifested in the wrongly selected software design concept, solution architecture, development approaches, and so on. In such cases, technical debt appears unexpectedly, so the risks cannot be prevented.
Unavoidable technical debt
The causes of technical debt of this type are when the project requires immediate scope changes during the development process. It relates to adding a new piece of functionality, replacing the existing option with another one, etc. The business requirements can be changed during the development, and this risk has to be considered in the risk management plan to make unavoidable technical debt predicted at least.

Reasons technical debt

Technical debt is an inevitable process for most companies dealing with software engineering development projects. The more complicated and durable the project is, the higher probability of the technical debt occurs.

The reasons for the need to manage technical debt are different, like unsuitable technological decisions, limited resources of app developers and project managers, and more.

The difference is whether these technical debts are considered and expected, or whether the engineering team made no preventive methods. Further, we would like to take a close look at the most widespread causes of tech debt and how to prevent technical debt.

Outdated app infrastructure

The technologies are rapidly changing and developing, bringing new capabilities and options. Obsolescence of software solution infrastructure is one of the common causes of technical debt.

Once the software app is developed and integrated within business processes, its architecture is expected to become outdated quite soon.

The maintenance services are not enough to cover these gaps in functionality. So after some time, your business solution will require an infrastructure update. One of the efficient methods is cloud migration, meaning converting your on-site app into a cloud-based system.

Software Entropy

Software entropy is a synonym of software non-feasibility due to the system legacy code and regular updates of the wrongly created code potentially cause by technical debt during the development. It may happen due to frequent software developer turnovers, undefined software requirements, etc. So the system issues are not fixed and continuing to expand in the future will lead to overall system destruction. Ignorance of the required changes of the app functionality is supposedly one of the most widespread reasons for technical debt.

Some vital system upgrades are delayed for the future, but the time of their execution never comes, as new tasks continue to arrive and technical debt is neglected.

Therefore, all decisions related to the software development process have to be future-proof and perspective for the scaling of your software application.

Gaps in the project risk management strategy

Our team pays thorough attention to the evaluation of potential risks that may occur during the development process in the project risk management plan – how likely some threats are to appear, measures to prevent them, possible impact on the development, and solutions to cope with them. It allows the tech leaders and business stakeholders to prioritize particular tasks and prove the need for investment in a risk mitigation plan.

In other cases, the risk and reasons technical debt will not be recognized and considered at all. As a result, technical debt will be added to the general list of risks that can unexpectedly occur on the project, with no predictions and possible prompt ways out.

Architecture Limitations

The technical debt related to app architecture is caused by non-scaling design decisions that are impossible to change with no impact on the whole system. It also depends on the chosen solution infrastructure as such risk related to on-premise or off-premise apps. Such solutions are not flexible and cannot be adjusted to the current business goals and requirements at once.

Limited app architecture is caused by the absence of long-term vision and perspective of business growth and solution scaling. So any changes that will be required in the future are becoming complicated and partially harmful for business goals and operations in general.

Unaddressed Security Vulnerabilities

Security compliance and regulations are also constantly upgraded. All these changes have to be considered in the solution requirements in order to provide a high level of data security within your internal system. In other cases, the number of cyberattacks and possibilities of data leakage will grow.

To avoid this course of events, all non-operating features with the application should be deleted, as such options are commonly not tested which gives them the opportunity to provide vulnerabilities to system security.

Variable business requirements

The business needs and requirements are specified during the analysis of your company process and existing internal software systems.

These requirements may change during the development process and stakeholders, as well as the engineering leaders, cannot predict these changes from the beginning.

So, the tech debt may occur due to the need to change the project scope and limit the initially set budget\timelines.

Low employee retention

If the engineering team members are constantly changing, and delegating tasks to their colleagues, the technical debt not only appears but also expands and complicates the work of the entire team. Each software project requires an individual approach for each specialist to be aware of the specific nuances of technical debt.

When the line-up changes, the vital details about the development process may be lost and have an impact on the release development stage as well as the amount of the technical debt.

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Technical debt can be predicted

We provide a risk management plan for each software project we develop

Best practices how to reduce technical debt

reduce technical debt approach

Based on the vast expertise of your solution architect and the whole development team, we have defined the technical debt best practices of how correctly tackle technical debt and reduce its amount on the project.

Acknowledge tech debt

It is pivotal to accept the existing technical debt in time and be aware of the negative consequences it will bring to your solution developers avoid technical debt reduction, even if now the business impact doesn’t seem to be scalable.

This concern is not that one that can be out on the shelf, as it requires quick and effective decisions as soon as possible to prevent potential issues and enable fixing technical debt.

Classify and document tech debt

There are different types of technical debt, and your technical debt should be correctly divided into specific groups and written down in project documents to understand the scope of work.

You also need to define the potential risks of not considering the technical debt and how they correlate to your business goals and plans.

The process of technical debt reduction should be precise and well-thought-out, including a plan of the following actions and tasks, as well as responsible specialists for their execution.

Understand your technology adoption stage and identify the best approach to avoid technical debt

After the amount of technical debt is specified, the next step should be the selection of a technology approach to resolving the entire technical debt and what solution will be the best for the particular project\software.

As we have already mentioned, you may neglect the need for changes and technical debt reduction, but you are not able to do this forever. Basically, there are turns of events:

  1. The first way is to partially change the system, checking each project sprint to find the issues meaning potential technical debt cause
  2. The second way is to redesign the entire system due to the impossibility to reduce technical debt.

Select a scalable app architecture

The software system architecture has to be sustainable for future updates and scaling the range of new features. Some types of software apps are impossible to refactor after launch, which will require much more investment in the solution upgrade. Our solution architects recommend selecting a flexible type of software architecture like microservices to make the app scalable in the future with no additional costs and troubles.

Make code review a routine

Code reviews have to be a regular process, not a one-time favor. It allows for maintaining the high-quality and clean code, as well as decreasing the amount of tech debt gradually.

This process of tackling technical debt needs to have a certain flow or guide, simple and clear for all developers on the project.

Keep a record of changes

The progress in reducing technical debt has to be documented as well as the amount of technical debt from the beginning of fixing. It gives a full image of what tasks have already been done and how effectively you move towards resolving the technical debt. Also, each task of a technical debt document can be added with real-time information about its state to monitor the gradualism of changes within the solution.

Educate non-technical stakeholders

The stakeholders of the software project should understand the importance and gravity of monitoring and working out the technical debt. To reduce tech debt, you need to understand that this process really matters and requires investment and all decisions related to costs and further development depend on the stakeholders, which are commonly engineering leaders

FAQ

Technical debt appears as a result of changing the priorities during the development time, accelerating the solution delivery of the existing code quality. Later, the technical debt must be resolved during the system refactoring stage or the system will become unfeasible and non-operational.
The solution to the technical debt within a particular project depends on the type of technical debt, its urgency, the available budget, and the practices of your custom software development team. Foremost, it is pivotal to admit the availability of technical debt in order to build the plan for its fixing, including tasks and deadlines.

Summing up

Taking into account the experience of our specialists, it can be seen a tendency of appearing technical debt on lots of software projects of different types, scopes, and duration. Large-scale projects are at higher risk.

It is pivotal to admit the existence of the technical debt in an entire amount to be capable of adjusting the project management plan with the working solutions to the technical debt on your project. Some decisions can be postponed, while others require immediate acceptance and action from the development team.

If you have faced lots of troubles with your system and its operations, we are ready to help with the analysis of the current state of your software application. We are going to reveal the core issues and find the appropriate solutions to reduce the technical debt and give life to your software solution.

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We will find the right solutions to reduce your technical debt

Let’s schedule a call to discuss the details of analyzing your software and further actions

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Creator

Due to my Master`s Degree in journalism, I focus on the details while doing the research on the topic. My particular curiosity is about the latest mobile app developments that start in 2015 that make life easier and save much time to spend it more productive. I am an expert in reviewing and consulting web projects related to web applications, especially if they are connected with wearables.
Max

Expert

Back-end team lead. Has more than 10 years of experience in web development. Designed and implemented a lot of solutions in e-commerce, social services and many others. Never afraid to use a new technology which are most relevant to reach a project's objective. Responsible.
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