Keep Your Technical Debt Under Limits to Achieve the Project Goals

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Keep Your Technical Debt Under Limits to Achieve the Project Goals

A guide to keeping technical debt low and productivity high!

· Agile Zone ·
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Technical Debt is an extreme programming terminology of telling that, restructuring/ refactoring/ rework of existing design/code is required because of poor implementation.

There could be various reasons for poor implementation, which generally happens during software development.

Reasons for Technical Debt

  • While developing a product in the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach, the team may not have the luxury to implement the functionality properly because of budgetary constraints.
  • When there are stringent deadlines to release a Product, the team may have to compromise and implement alternative approaches.
  • When there is not enough talent/knowledge on the team for proper implementation.
  • When a part of the product is developed by third-party and team needs time to understand that part of the code.
  • When the team realizes/learns there are better ways to implement specific functionality.
  • When coding standards (best approaches) are not followed and there is no review process in place, the team tends to produce substandard code.
  • When the application was architected inappropriately, and the effects are evidenced during release testing.
  • When teams are pressurized to increase productivity, it may lead to technical debt because they may compromise the quality.

Technical debt cannot be avoided but not planning to repay that debt will have serious effects on the quality of the product and may result in more and more bugs in production.

Organizations need to understand this and strategically reduce the technical debt for greater results in the long run.

Ways to Handle Technical Debt

  • Identify Technical Debt using Reviews: Have the architecture and code review process in place to identify the technical debt. Conduct peer reviews, architect reviews and cross-team reviews to identify the issues effectively.
  • Automatic Code Analysis: There are tools available to analyze the source code dynamically in the code editors – these tools may not identify all the technical issues but can help to some extent. Additionally, the build process can be configured to use a static code analysis tool to identify technical debt.
  • Test Automation: Developing and running automated tests in the CI process reveals the pattern of bugs. High bugs in any area of the application may reveal an improper implementation.
  • Tracking is Critical: It is mandatory to create work items for all the issues identified and keep it available in the open pool. The team can add comments to those issues and pick up any item and work on it when time permits. Having a list readily available helps them to identify opportunities to address them along with other work items.
  • Prioritize the Items: It is always a good idea to prioritize the technical debt items by their effect on quality. This helps the team to attack serious issues first.
  • Measure it: We know avoiding technical debt may not be possible altogether, but it is better to understand the magnitude. Measuring this can help the team to keep the technical debt under a limit.
  • Avoid as Much as Possible: Teams are finding it tough to deliver the product in the allocated time, and introducing Technical Debt will make their job tougher in the future. Hence it is better to avoid the Technical Debt as much as possible by following proper design and principles.
  • Use Organizational Knowledge: When a team identifies a lack of knowledge in some technical areas, they need to approach enterprise architects or technical leaders for required help.
  • Reusable Components: It is a good idea to take expert inputs to see if there is a reusable component available in the organization or can be purchased.
  • Continuous Effort: Teams need to give serious consideration to reducing technical debt continuously. Leadership should also believe that getting rid of technical debt improves the quality of the product.
  • Use Slack Time: Using the slack time to clear off Technical debt is an easy approach, as this gives the team flexibility of exploring the best implementation.
  • Rework Opportunities: There are times when you may need to fix an issue in the source code and there is technical debt in the same file - better use this as an opportunity to clear it off.
  • Retrospectives: Use retrospectives to discuss the new technical debt introduced in the last sprint and find ways to reduce it in future sprints.
  • Conduct a Code-fest: There are teams, who conduct a Code Festival for a day or two in a month/quarter to clear any technical debt on the project. This gives them a focused time to knock down the technical debt piled up on projects.
  • Use New Members: When a new member joins on the team and going through the training process, they can be asked to pick up any tech debt issues and work on those under a senior’s guidance. This gives them a chance to understand the code base and be productive by reducing technical debt.
  • Recognize the Contribution: Appreciate the team for maintaining low technical debt on the project. This recognition motivates people to review the code and produce high-quality code.

These are just some ways to identify and reduce the technical debt, but teams can identify more ways/opportunities to handle the technical debt for a high-quality product.

Technical debt is not always bad but keeping it under control is important.

Share how you handle Technical Debt on your projects…

Further Reading

debt, debt management, web dev

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