7 types of technical debt and how to manage them

Pritesh Pattni

7 types of technical debt and how to manage them

Most organisations are in technical debt. Why? Because, in challenging economic times, IT budgets come under pressure, updates and new software purchases are delayed, and organisations are put in a position where they are trying to grow their businesses without quality tech underpinning that growth.

Technical debt manifests itself in a number ways, depending on the type of organisation and the tech investment choices that have been made. In our blog, Recognising technical debt in your development approach, we referenced an academic paper that identified 13 types of technical debt. In this blog, we’ll concentrate on the 7 most common types of technical debt, and how, if you start to manage these areas, you can improve a number of key areas across your organisation.

Technical debt #1: Code debt

This is one of the most common types of technical debt. Code debt happens when software developers take shortcuts, leading to poorly-created or inefficient coding. This usually happens during a hard coding project, where tight deadlines, lack of experience or reduced team size can result in corners being cut. The resulting bugs or crashes, along with increased need for fixes and maintenance puts organisations in significant technical debt. 

Technical debt #2: Architecture debt

It’s not just the way applications are coded that incurs technical debt – it’s also the underlying architecture. This is an area that needs to be properly addressed as part of a software project, but is often where shortcuts are made in order to keep to project deadlines or release dates. And yet, just like a building project, without the right architecture, the software simply won’t be able to perform at the desired level. Poor architecture or design leads to an inability to scale the software when needed, and can end up costing a huge amount to fix in retrospect.

Technical debt #3: Testing debt

Testing is one of the most important parts of the software development process, and a comprehensive test approach should be built into a project plan to ensure that the software is reliably ready for release. Inadequate testing means that errors in the software are not identified, and therefore the software will be buggy, crash more often and even open the organisation up to security issues. Failing to test thoroughly will cause technical debt problems down the line.

Technical debt #4: Dependency debt

Failure to update existing software, or choosing not to move to new software when a third party vendor stops supporting a product, results in technical debt that can damage your organisation. This type of debt can leave your organisation open to cyber attack or other security challenges, and reduces your ability to deliver the most efficient service to your customers.

Technical debt #5: People debt

This issue manifests in a couple of ways. First, you may not have enough people on your team to run your project effectively. This means that the work gets spread too thinly. This, along with pressure to meet tight deadlines, means that your team may not be able to ensure that their work is the standard it should be. Secondly, cutting corners in recruitment, or not paying the market rate for coding expertise can mean that the people on your team simply don’t have the necessary skills to build the software you need. When this happens, your project suffers, your software is sub-standard and your people often leave, so you also have recruitment and retention issues.

Technical debt #6: Process debt

Successful software projects are based on robust processes. These processes are the framework of the project, giving it the structure it needs to progress on time and on budget. Where those processes are missing – or are ignored in favour of getting things done faster, or reducing costs, the software itself will suffer. This will lead to increase costs and increased downtime further down the line.

Technical debt #7: Documentation debt

Documentation might not be the most exciting part of a software development project, but it is essential. Documentation contains all the know-how within the project, helping others to manage it in the future, and saving hours of time spent searching for relevant resources. On too many projects, however, documentation is seen as a ‘could-have’ rather than a ‘must-have’. So it is often incomplete or inaccurate. In the long term, this causes technical debt that racks up costs in terms of time and finances.

What happens when you manage your technical debt?

There are some significant business benefits to tackling your technical debt. Leaving your debt to increase simply isn’t an option. By identifying your top areas of technical debt and starting to address them sooner rather than later, you can make a range of critical improvements:

  • Improve your security vulnerability
  • Reduce long-term maintenance costs
  • Become more innovative
  • Boost your competitive advantage
  • Allocate resources more effectively
  • Increase flexibility and scalability
  • Deliver better customer service
  • Shorten time to market
  • Improve retention and team morale
 

How can a low code approach help?

Low code is a good way to address technical debt. It’s a faster, more accurate and more efficient way to create new applications, or transfer current processes from inflexible software like Excel to something that adds measurable value to your organisation.

Using low code significantly reduces technical debt, and provides organisations with the scalability and flexibility they need to operate effectively and grow strategically. At ISB Global Smart Solutions, we are a long-term partner with OutSystems – one of the longest-standing and most comprehensive low code platforms on the market.

If you’re concerned about your technical debt, why not get in touch to see how we can help?

 

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