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WHAT IS TECHNICAL DEBT?

Technical debt is a term used to describe the speediness in delivery of a product or piece of a product by a development team. Technical debt can be thought of as a debt that needs to be paid if the delivered product is not up to the required standards. The repayment of debt can be in the form of resources, reevaluation of work, time, and more. 

Technical debt is the result of prioritizing delivery time over the production of the product itself. Technical debt is also known as tech debt or code debt. In software development, technical debt is quite a famous term to define prioritization. The crucial thing to note about technical debt that it piles up. One technical debt adds to another and in this way a stack of technical or code debt can be created which may result in system failure. It’s important to own the credibility of your work when dealing with technical debt. Almost all of the time, once technical debt has been made, you will have to spend your resources and time fixing the issue that could have been avoided in the first place. 

Technical debt is a pretty common and famous word in the software or tech industry. Any technical mistake that could have been avoided if the developer had more time comes under the umbrella of technical debt. It covers everything from documentational mistakes to missing code. 

The origination of the phrase technical debt can be credited to a software developer, Ward Cunningham. The phrase ‘technical debt’ was used by Cunningham to define why resources needed to be budgeted for refactoring to non-technical stakeholders. This term later became popular among the masses to provide a clear explanation of debt that can build up because of fast delivery expectations. 

SIMPLIFIED DEFINITION OF TECHNICAL DEBT:

To better understand technical debt, you can take the example of financial debt as well. In financial debt, you take a certain amount of loan that you have to pay overtime. Similarly, technical debt consists of taking a loan as well. This loan is underdeveloped code. You have to pay back this loan by providing your resources and time to fixing the mistakes made before.

Technical debt can be used as a tool to get ahead. It is a debt that can give you certain features in the start but these features will be limited and will require reworking to provide a better solution.

WHAT CAUSES TECHNICAL DEBT?

Technical debt is unavoidable in most cases. Whether it is small scale or large, a certain amount of technical debt develops no matter how much you try to avoid it. Technical debt can have a number of causes. These causes are further discussed below. 

  • Time Pressure:

One of the biggest reasons why technical debt develops is because of time pressure. Usually when a big task is required to be delivered within a limited timeframe, it can lead to technical debt. This type of technical debt arises either because the buyer is not well aware of the time process of a certain task or the seller fails to properly communicate the time needed to achieve a certain goal. 

Many times strict deadlines can make it impossible to avoid technical debt. However, it is crucial to understand the importance of providing clean code and request time wherever possible. 

  • Old Technology:

Another reason why technical debt develops is because of old or outdated methods and technology. Using a system that is out of work can make a certain project faulty which can develop technical debt. Developing any software product requires a bunch of different programming languages. These languages have a tendency to be replaced by others after a period of time. If a certain developer uses the same outdated technologies to develop new softwares, this could lead to technical debt.  

This type of technical debt is easily avoidable. One of the most crucial requirements of a developer is the need to stay updated with the latest trends. By reading up on advancements in a particular area and whatnot, any developer can easily avoid this type of technical debt. 

  • Changes in the Market:

Technical debt can also be developed because of changes in the market or requirement of the buyer. Once a complete software or application has been developed, it is a lot harder to make changes in the code. This leads to technical debt created in the system. This type of debt is not necessarily anyone’s fault. However, this debt can be avoided both by the developer and the client.

 A client should seek consultations to first understand what they are looking for themselves, this should be done preferably with the developer. On the developer’s part, it is important to make sure that a client has all the information they need. A developer should provide advice on how to go about a project if they see any gray areas in the process. However, even after following all these steps, it is likely that this debt will still appear in a product or software. 

This type of debt can be avoided in some cases while in other cases, a margin of technical debt will appear in the system because of changes. Changes can not be avoided. If they are needed in a system then you have no choice but to make those changes. This is why this type of debt is an exceptional case. 

IS TECHNICAL DEBT BAD?

Now comes the question, is technical debt bad? The simple answer is, it is neither good nor bad. It is a debt after all. There are many different schools of thought that give you an overview of whether technical debt is a good thing or a bad one. 

There are many reasons why technical debt develops. One such reason is the pressure on software agencies. With the increasing number of startups in the market, everyone wants to stay on top. This is why agencies and even clients tend to push the delivery date which increases the likelihood of the development of technical debt. 

Technical debt is not inherently bad. Almost all products that are out in the market have a degree of technical debt in them. However, the accumulation of technical debt can be a costly hazard. The reason why technical debt accumulates is because it is not a visible debt unlike financial debt. Technical debt can pile up and get stacked before it even becomes an issue. However, the issues that do develop because of technical debt are too big to be avoided. These issues can cause entire system failure and application shut down. Every business needs to have their software up and running at all times if they want to make profit. This is why it is so crucial to avoid technical debt of the extent that can cause system failures. 

So, the takeaway here is that technical debt is not something you can classify as good or bad. It will exist to some extent whether you like it or not. However, technical debt on a small scale is unproblematic and nothing to concern yourself with. Technical debt only becomes an issue when it actually starts to create issues in your system. 

GET EXPERT HELP!

Technical debt is a long and confusing topic for many to understand. If you are not tech savvy, it is possible that this article would have helped you understand that technical debt can be developed in your product whether you like it or not. Expecting a faster delivery is understandable but having a fully functional product is also crucial if you want to run your business successfully. 

At Codesy Consulting, we provide consultations to all our clients to discuss topics such as technical debt and make sure we provide an achievable and realistic timeline for every project to our clients. Reach out to us today to receive the consultation and software development you need for your business.