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Technical debt refers to a rushed development process or a lack of shared knowledge among team members. However, in many cases, technical debt is inevitable and is part of a normal software development process.
The negative impact of technical debt on businesses is massive.
Here are the best ways to prevent and manage technical debt that both startups and enterprise companies can implement today.
Imagine two software engineers have worked on a new feature. They own all knowledge about this specific feature. However, other software engineers in your team don't have this knowledge. When they have to work on this feature or have to do an implementation that makes use of this feature, they won't have the knowledge required to correctly implement a new feature.
Therefore, it's essential that you actively share knowledge about features and important codebase changes.
Design debt often occurs in highly competitive markets or startups where speed to market often is the highest priority.
When delivering new features quickly, you're not thinking about the structure of features or the architecture of your codebase. It often gets neglected, making it increasingly harder to add new features. And now you have to fix it as a team.
Therefore, design debt is closely linked to structuring features and adhering to design patterns.
Code debt is about writing bad code and not fixing this in time. For instance, a developer wants to quickly merge code without writing sufficient tests or adhering to code standards.
Many organizations use automation tools such as pre-commit hooks with code linting to verify code quality. When you don’t implement such code checks, bad code can quickly decline the overall quality of your codebase.
A refactoring week allows your team to resolve open bugs, evaluate the current architecture, and prepare the architecture for the upcoming product features.
Benefit: A refactoring week gives the needed breathing room for developers to evaluate and reflect on the code before implementing a new set of features. It’s great for solving big pieces of debt.
Drawback: The development process slows down while you are doing refactoring and your team is not solving debt continuously.
A retrospective meeting addresses what went well and what didn’t. It’s an open stage to share feedback without placing blame. It would be best if you focused on improvement.
Benefit: You can use retrospective meetings to share updates about the code. Engineers can show what they have accomplished.
Drawback: Stakeholders and managers need to be on board with the vision and give engineers time to organise these meetings.
Tracking technical debt in the editor allows engineers to:
Benefit: Developers already spend most of their time in the editor so it's the best place to track and report technical issues. Implementing a process for managing technical debt will positively influence engineering team morale and customer satisfaction.
Drawback: Starting a new habit takes time and effort from team members and it's impossible to do without a tech debt hero.
Track metrics related to different types of tech debt.
Leaving technical debt unaddressed can result in several issues for your organisation, such as higher total cost of ownership, slower time to market, reduced agility because of a poorly designed architecture, and poor security.
Make sure to have a process that makes it easy to share knowledge with team members and resolve technical debt continuously.
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