What Do Engineers Really Think About Technical Debt?
We have surveyed 200+ Engineers to find out what they think about technical debt and its impact on businesses.
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After surveying 200+ Engineers, we've published the State of Technical Debt 2021 Report that explores the impact of tech debt on developer morale, velocity, and customer experience. In this article, I'll share some of the key learnings from the report and some of my thoughts.
Here are some of the main stats:
- 52% of engineers believe that technical debt negatively impacts their team's morale. Over 60% of Engineers think that tech debt causes bugs, outages, and slows down the development process.
- The average engineer spends 6 hours per week (roughly 1 day) dealing with technical debt.
- Making the case for technical debt could help engineers ship up to 100% faster. The majority of engineers (66%) believe the team would ship up to 100% faster if they had a process for technical debt. Another 15% think they would be 200% more productive.
- Despite the fact that engineers are convinced about the negative impact of technical debt on the business, 58% of companies still have no process to manage technical debt.
Technical Debt Is Destroying Developer Morale
It's no surprise that technical debt causes bugs, outages, quality issues and slows down the development process. But the impact of tech debt is far greater than that.
Employee morale is one of the most difficult things to manage, especially now that companies are switching to long-term remote work solutions. Many Engineers mentioned that technical debt is actually a major driver of decreasing morale. They often feel like they are forced to prioritize new features over vital maintenance work that could improve their experience and velocity and this is taking a significant toll.
Developers Spend 1 Day a Week Dealing With Technical Debt
When we published this statement, one of the most popular comments was: “That little? I spend way more time on technical debt!”
While companies want to ship even faster and increase productivity, they are actually spending a lot of their time dealing with technical debt. The average time spent on overall maintenance work and legacy systems is 33%. Of which, more than 50% is spent solely on technical debt.
Backends Contain the Most Amount of Technical Debt
60% of engineering team members claim that most of the technical debt lives in the backend, specifically, in web server endpoints. Company apps/websites and general infrastructure are also parts of the codebase that accumulate a large amount of technical debt. The findings suggest that companies could dramatically increase their productivity by paying down tech debt in these areas of their codebase.
Engineers Believe the Team Would Ship Up To 100% Faster if They Had a Process for Technical Debt
More than half of respondents claim that their companies do not deal with technical debt well, highlighting that the divide between engineers and leadership is widening rather than closing. Engineers are clearly convinced that technical debt is the primary reason for productivity losses, however, they seem to be struggling to make it a priority.
Yet, making the case for technical debt could help engineers ship up to 100% faster. As much as 66% of Engineers believe the team would ship up to 100% faster if they had a process for technical debt. Another 15% think they would be 200% more productive. Only 2% of engineers believe that having technical debt under control would make no difference for their team velocity.
Most Enterprise Companies Deal with Maintenance Work Continuously
Companies with 100+ engineering teams are more likely to spend time doing maintenance work continuously. Small and medium-sized businesses prefer to deal with it on a project basis.
54% of engineers from enterprise companies claim to do maintenance work on a regular basis while only 42% of engineers at startups and middle-sized companies do so. Engineers at smaller companies tend to deal with maintenance work on a project basis or decide depending on the project.
Also, 70% of the teams who do maintenance work continuously do it on a daily or weekly basis, only 20% — monthly, and less than 10% — yearly.
Engineering Teams Use Multiple Tools to Manage Technical Projects
There is not much of a difference between startups, mid-sized companies, and enterprises when it comes to the tools they use to manage technical debt. Most of the teams use Jira or other project management tools as well as code quality tools. 36% of all teams use more than 1 tool to manage their technical projects, for example, project management tools together with code quality, git analysis, or a spreadsheet.
I believe that companies need to identify key pieces of tech debt that get in the way of key goals, cost countless engineering hours in productivity losses, or are the root cause for bugs and other issues that impact the customer experience. We hope that this data will give engineers a voice and help them bring visibility into technical problems they struggle with.
Published at DZone with permission of Alex Omeyer. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.