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by Resourcing People

Debt. It’s a terrifying word for any business owner, and to be avoided at all costs. The same can be said about Technical Debt, although less financial risk is directly involved. As the world’s business processes become more streamlined and competition increases in the market, clients expect service and expect it fast. With fast-paced environments and tighter deadlines looming, mistakes can understandably be made, but with this comes a rise in Technical Debt.

 

What Is Technical Debt?

Technical Debt stems from development teams making shortcuts or mistakes in their coding work which usually needs to be revisited for functionality, security, and user experience.  Where careful consideration over every line of code would previously take place, deadlines looming on the horizon forces teams to “prioritize speedy delivery over perfect code” (Source: Product Plan). 

 

What Are The Consequences of Technical Debt?

While financial risk isn’t directly the primary consequence of technical debt, delivering projects riddled with errors means reassigning paid staff to fix mistakes. As well as overtime costs, businesses with Technical Debt can expect damaged relationships with clients, resulting in lower ratings in the long run. This may mean they struggle to source new projects, and can have devastating consequences on the lifecycle of a technology company and needs to be avoided. 

 

What Companies Are Affected By Technical Debt?

Any Software, Programming, or Development companies (including UX/UI) are at risk of technical debt, especially in Germany’s competitive economy. If you’re often running multiple projects with multiple clients, then your staff are at risk of chasing deadlines rather than success. 

 

Examples of Companies With Active Technical Debt

Ipek Ozkaya at the Software Engineering Institute reported of one “successful maritime equipment company [who] managed to amass 3 million lines of inconsistent code over 15 years. Every release required developers to do several days of manual and labor-intensive regression testing with existing products.” (Source: Clockwise). 

Another example was reported when two large global financial institutions merged. Instead of mixing the two IT systems, they rapidly developed new software using more recent technologies. According to Ipek, they were too focused on providing extra features for the demo, and forgot about the overall architecture of the system. As a result, issues of scalability, data management, distribution, and even security surfaced. In 6 months, they had so much technical debt that they were brought to a complete standstill. 

 

How Do I Know If I'm In Or Near Technical Debt?

Technical Debt can weigh heavily on businesses, and it’s usually pretty obvious if you are suffering from costly mistakes in the past, or on the edge of business survival - constantly trying to catch up on work. Technical Debt can be measured per project and is “classified based on the life cycle of the fix where the debt occurs.” (Source: Springer Link). 

 

Business Who Have Technical Debt Are Likely to Notice...

1. Poorly Designed Code: We suggest reviewing past projects for inconsistency in code behaviour, unorganised modules, and unconnected code segments to measure if your company is likely to experience Technical Debt. 

2. Volatile Performance: Error reports are the biggest signifier of Technical Debt, and frequent complaints from clients suggest previous projects have been rushed. Watch out for system crashes, bug issues, and long loading times.

3. Testing Strain: If you’ve ever had to skip testing periods because of deadline pressure, then you likely have overriding Technical Debt.

4. Backward View: If your technology company is frequently reassigning Software Developers and Engineers to work on past projects instead of newer ones, then this is a signifier of Technical Debt. 

5. Repetitive Phrases: “We’ll revisit this later.” “Maybe we’ll have time tomorrow.” “We could be doing something else right now.” If your Development teams are stuck in a loop of constantly pushing vital work to tomorrow, then you are likely amassing vast quantities of Technical Debt. 

 

How Do I Calculate Technical Debt?

Calculating Technical Debt has been narrowed down to a specific ratio, comparing the cost of fixing a software system to the cost of building the system originally. 

Technical Debt Ratio = (Remediation Cost / Development Cost) x 100%

You can either:

A) Look at the costs as a whole, or
B) Narrow costs down to specific modules or lines

For example, if it took a total of 170 manhours to complete a project, but each line took 0.17 hours to write, knowing both Technical Debt Ratios is important for deciding how to proceed. These two calculations will generate different results. 

For our 170 hour project, a 17-hour fix would result in a 10% Technical Debt.
 
However, let’s presume there were 100 faulty lines, (and we know they took 0.17 hours to write originally), so this totals 17 man-hours. A 17-hour fix would be a 100% Technical Debt Ratio.  

An ideal Technical Debt sits at less than 5%. 

Due to human error, it’s unlikely you’ll never make mistakes but lower Technical Debt values can be predicted and adapted to. Consistent Technical Debt allows you to forecast errors and bring in freelance Software Engineers to manage workloads and maintain staff wellbeing - saving yourself from an advancing spiral and generating more Technical Debt. 

 

What Are Some Solutions For Technical Debt?

For the most part, solving Technical Debt comes down to managing individual employee workloads and negotiating for longer deadlines. 

You need to increase employee availability with demand, but if you aren’t ready to take on a full-time staff member, start looking at freelance, casual, or part-time Software Developers and Engineers who can provide temporary solutions to rapid business growth. 

If you’ve been looking for a change in your working environment, or are looking to understand how you can support the future of your Software Development teams, Resourcing People can help.

We can connect you with new opportunities or people for your business, putting control of Technical Debt in your hands. We are driven by tech, powered by people. Get in touch with us today