With the rise of software development processes like Agile and Scrum, many startup and established development teams are optimizing for speed in the software development process. Although speed of development is important to reduce time to market and get feedback, it can be accompanied with lower quality code. This phenomenon has given rise to technical debt.


What is technical debt?

Technical debt, also known as tech debt, technology debt or code debt, is when development teams expedite the delivery of software and it results in further development in the future.  In other words, when technical debt solves a problem, it creates many more. Although one instance of debt will not slow down a business, the problem arises when  debt accumulates and sets back an entire development team.


Technology debt is not necessarily a good or bad thing for development teams, it’s just a strategy some teams employ to get to market faster. Development teams often make a decision to take on code debt due to real-time constraints on the project. Some teams can use debt to get ahead of the competition, acquire users and fix the code later.

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Types of technical debt:

There are several types of technology debt, including:


Intentional:  Intentional code debt is when a development team knowingly takes on technical debt to optimize for speed and time to market. This can be advantageous, as it is planned and the development team can get feedback quickly.


Unintentional: Unintentional debt is when a team accrues technical debt unknowingly. This is generally found when there are rollout issues coupled with poor communication within the team.


Unavoidable:  Unavoidable tech debt is when unforeseen changes occur that require the development team to use better solutions. This can occur during projects where new features are requested that require additional time and resources.

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Best practices

Measuring technical debt: One of the most important practices for managing debt is measuring it. Itemizing and writing down exactly what each technology debt is helps manage and maintain the debt throughout the project.


Communicating the debt: After measuring the debt, it has to be communicated to all key stakeholders for the project. This helps create transparency within the development team, making everyone aware of the work that needs to be done due to tech debt. A lot of the frustration from code debt arises from poor communication or lack of communication.


Paying the debt: Tech debt has to be addressed in an efficient manner. The problems it causes become insurmountable when the code debt is ignored for a long time. All project stakeholders should align on deadlines for addressing the debt.


To learn more about how to use technical debt in your development practices, talk to an expert here.