Nowadays work in the dynamically and constantly changing environment is an absolute norm. From time to time new technologies and programming languages are being created, and the existing tech stacks are being improved. But if so, what should be done with long-lasting projects, which have been developed with the use of the tech stacks that were created a long time ago? The answer is obvious: they should be maintained and modernized in order to improve the functionality in order to adapt to a new reality. In this article we will consider such a notion as technical debt: what it really is, why it appears and discuss the ways it can be successfully managed.

Main Types of Technical Debt

Most software developers during their career have faced technical debt anyway. Moreover, this definition causes a headache when they realize the necessity to work with it during the project progress. So what is the essence of the technical debt which causes such unpleasant emotions for those who face it? Put simply, technical debt is the outcome of implementation of the simplified and short-term solutions in development, which lead to constantly increasing expenses and time required for the following fine-tuning, code rewriting or existing product maintenance. Let’s consider main types of technical debt below:

  • Deliberate Technical Debt 
    This kind of debt appears when developers deliberately choose the solution which may be pretty far from ideal. Why may a developer choose in favour of not the best option when he or she realizes that there are better solutions that could have been implemented? The reason is simple: it’s faster and easier, which allows to release a product in the short run.
  • Obsolete Project Architecture
    Since tech stacks are constantly being improved and new programming languages appear, long-term projects developed on the basis of outdated technologies require maintenance and periodic refactoring, so the product functionality could be improved.
  • Cumulative Technical Debt
    Such debt accumulates over time, when the component or the whole system is gradually becoming more complex due to multiple implemented changes. The situation with this kind of technical debt may be deteriorated if different developers work on the system at various stages, especially if they do not fully understand the original architecture.

Read Also: Application Modernization vs Building App from Scratch — Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

Key Reasons for Technical Debt

Technical debt doesn’t appear by accident, there may be a variety of reasons for it. Let’s consider the most common reasons below:

  • Tight Schedule
    When there are strict time limits, a developer may decide in favour of not the best solution, and the appropriate one is postponed for the indefinite period of time. Under this kind of approach, the modularity of the code suffers, which causes the difficulties in making further changes.
  • Misunderstanding of Possible Circumstances
    Sometimes customers that are not familiar with the software development process, underestimate the impact of the technical debt for the project. Therefore strict time limits are imposed or requirements to add functionality that contradicts the initial one appear. In the result you may receive the code that would be pretty far from ideal.
  • Strict Components Coherence
    When the project resembles the single monolith, it’s impossible to proceed with changes in one part of the project that wouldn’t affect others, which causes certain difficulties in the team development.
  • Refactoring is Postponed on the Regular Basis
    It goes without saying that refactoring requires a certain amount of time, and It may be difficult to convey the importance of refactoring to a customer. If modernization is constantly postponed, the quality of the produced code will leave much to be desired.
  • Budget Restrictions
    It goes without saying, working on the accumulated technical debt, requires time and therefore money, which can be a pretty challenging task in circumstances of the limited budget.

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Way Out: How to Manage the Technical Debt

Generally speaking, technical debt is practically unavoidable. And the main aim of managing the technical debt is not to prevent it or totally eliminate it, but to take measures that would help not to accumulate so it could become critical. There are some efficient approaches to manage the technical debt, let’s consider them in this chapter:

  • Devote Time to Refactoring Regularly
    Regular refactoring is one of the most obvious and efficient ways to avoid the accumulation of the technical debt. Refactoring doesn’t affect the inner structure of the code, doesn’t presuppose implementation of the additional functionality and does not fix bugs. It could lead to the assumption that refactoring is basically unnecessary and is not worth spending the precious time for. But it should be kept in mind that this process increases the overall quality of the code, and makes it more maintainable, readable and better-functioning, which facilitates the ongoing work with it.
  • Prioritize
    It’s not every technical debt that requires immediate “redemption”. Therefore it’s important to work on classification of debt types and their prioritization. Generally speaking, paramount priority has the debt which is the part of the basic architecture, and has the direct impact on product development speed. Such type of technical debt is considered to be the most dangerous since it leads to the accumulation of new debts, and thereby causes the snowball effect.
  • Knowledge Base Maintenance
    If we deal with the long-playing project that lasts years or even decades, we can not be sure that it will be maintained by the same specialists. That is why it’s extremely important to maintain the knowledge base, containing code documentation, roadmaps, and other necessary files properly. The crucial advantage of this approach is that developers may access the necessary information related to a project at its every stage, and therefore solve the arising issues quicker and more efficiently.
  • Unit Tests
    In order to avoid the issues with regression bugs, it’s important to conduct unit tests on the regular and frequent basis. Owing to these actions the developers will be able to detect and fix bugs more efficiently, which in its turn will lead to the improvement of the overall code quality.

Conclusions

Tech stacks are being modernized, new programming languages appear, developers make mistakes… There exist so many factors that have a direct impact on technical debt eruption. And as far the further evolution of the software development environment is practically endless, we should accept that the mission is impossible if we consider the total elimination of technical debt from a project, since it’s an integral part of the development process. But nevertheless, although it’s impossible to fully get rid of it, the importance of minimizing this phenomenon is indisputable. If you are currently in need of a robust software development team that would put all the effort into creating a high-quality project for you, please contact us, our experts will use their extensive experience for its development.