By Applaudo Studios

2021-08-19

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Development

Technical debt in software development

Learn more about technical debt in software development and how you can avoid it.

In software development, deliberate or unintentional negligence, errors, or deficiencies in relation to the code can slow down productivity and generate high additional costs. This happens when the development team prioritizes speedy delivery over perfect code, thus acting in a rushed manner in software development. The result? Technical debt. 

In this article, we will address the concept of technical debt and its causes. We will also give you a broader view of the factors to take into account in order to minimize technical debt in software development. 

What is technical debt?

Technical debt, tech debt, or code debt, is the consequence of development teams taking measures to accelerate the delivery of a piece of functionality or a project that will later need to be refactored. This leads to deliberate or unintentional errors, gaps, and deficiencies in the code that are generated by miscommunication, team management, qualification, or rushed release of products and are constantly increasing due to the lack of refactoring.

In 1992, Ward Cunningham, developer and co-author of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, came up with the metaphor of technical debt. By this concept, Cunningham wanted to highlight the relevance of refactoring, i.e. the regular correction of code, for software. Only in this way is it possible to prevent software from generating more debt due to increasing operational and structural deficiencies.

But the term technical debt not only means more effort and lower productivity due to further maintenance measures but also higher costs. The more a team’s management ignores the maintenance of a deficient infrastructure or software application, the more interest the debt generates and the more expensive the code corrections become.

Causes

The causes of technical debt can be quite varied. Here are some of them:

  • Lack of quality management
    Projects are developed without testing, measuring, or quality control mechanisms and lead to continuous debt.
  • Economic pressure
    It is possible that due to customer demands or competitive pressure, priority is given to economic factors and rapid development at the expense of code cleanliness.
  • Lack of qualification
    Sometimes the technical knowledge of the development team may not match the requirements of a clean and elegant code.
  • Poor documentation/communication
    The development process is carried out without documenting code extensions and modifications. In addition, code modifications are neither recorded nor communicated to downstream programmers. The possibilities for refactoring are limited or non-existent.
  • Delayed refactoring
    The technical debt deliberately accepted is not paid off in the short term, since refactoring is overlooked or postponed.
  • Parallel development of applications
    Development phases that run in parallel, but are not coordinated, lead to the accumulation of debt.
  • Overly complex code
    Code paragraphs are too complicated. Small modifications can lead to more bugs and increased debt. 
  • Unstructured development processes
    Application development starts before a specific design or processes are defined and decided upon.
  • Abrupt changes in the process
    Due to lack of time, abrupt changes in the code are not checked.

Types of technical debt

Technical debt is caused by deficiencies in the code that, due to lack of time or budget, force the adoption of a faster solution to the problem, although deficient. According to the document “Towards an Ontology of Terms on Technical Debt”, published by the Software Engineering Institute, there are 13 different types of technical debt:

  • Architecture Debt
  • Build Debt
  • Code Debt
  • Defect Debt
  • Design Debt
  • Documentation Debt
  • Infrastructure Debt
  • People Debt
  • Process Debt
  • Requirement Debt
  • Service Debt
  • Test Automation Debt
  • Test Debt

We can support you

At Applaudo Studios, we have standardized processes for quality management through updated tools for error measurement and analysis. The implementation of continuous training for our software engineers and the composition of our teams according to the required qualifications, make us your best ally to succeed in Agile software development. Let’s talk about your project!


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