Deirdre O'Brien, SEO & Marketing
Deirdre is an experienced marketer and SEO expert who is passionate about creating content for everyone except herself! She previously worked as Head of Content & Publishers for a Marketing Tech Startup where she led paid and organic content strategy for a large portfolio of DTC brands.
When you work in the world of software development, you are going to hear the term technical debt mentioned quite a lot. Technical debt (also known as tech debt or code debt) occurs when development teams expedite the delivery of a piece of code or a project which later needs to be fixed due to ongoing errors that arise from pushing it live too soon. To put it simply, technical debt happens when a team of coders hasn’t had a chance to tick all of the boxes with the code review process as they are under pressure to deliver.
If you're new to this terminology, Enterprisersproject.com summed it up brilliantly:
“Conceptually, technical debt is similar to financial debt. For the borrower, it is more important to purchase an item and have it in hand now than it is to save up the funds to purchase in all-cash. We take on technical debt for reasons similar to why we take on financial debt: We need something now (or soon) that we don't have "cash" to pay for in full. So we borrow to get what we need. With software, this generally means making coding or design decisions that are sub-optimal – or that we know will need to be addressed and updated in the future – in order to get what we want or need into production sooner”
Surprisingly, many engineers make these decisions knowing that it’ll cost them in the long run. But although technical debt occurs at the hands of engineers, it's not usually their fault. Tech team leaders have a responsibility to put in place processes and rules that can stop a large amount of technical debt from occurring. Let’s be realistic for a second; a certain amount of technical debt is inevitable, but ensuring that it doesn't become the norm is essential for keeping costs down and team morale high.
“Technical debt was originally coined by software developer, Ward Cunningham, who in addition to being one of 17 authors of the Agile Manifesto, is also credited with inventing the wiki. He first used the metaphor to explain to non-technical stakeholders at WyCash why resources needed to be budgeted for refactoring."
Why Technical Debt Is Bad For Software Quality And Work Output
Now that we have explained the definition of technical debt, let's look at why it is such a massive issue for software quality. Well, it’s pretty obvious; when you rush a task in order to expedite a project, you are sacrificing all of the quality control measures you have set in place. Not following proper code review procedures will cause ongoing issues because you will keep finding defects and bugs that will take a lot of time and money to fix. It’s a never ending cycle and it hinders your team from working on new tasks that can drive your business forward. As we said, technical debt is unavoidable and oftentimes intentional, but team leaders need to be aware that they will end up paying for it so much more in the long run. Pushing out poor quality software can affect customers or team members who use your platform, and cause a lot of added stress to an engineering team as they continuously work to fix a seemingly never-ending stream of bugs.
An exorbitant amount of tech debt will also have a massive impact on your work output. Sure, you may have saved yourself time in the short term by launching something quickly, but it will cost you more in the long run. It’s a catch 22; launching a piece of software and getting it to market ASAP might feel like increasing your team's output, but doing so means that future projects will be affected.
When technical debt gets out of control, engineering teams spend the greater part of their time fixing bugs instead of working on new features or critical new updates.
According to clearlaunch.com:
“The technical debt must eventually be repaid and that comes at the cost of adding new features or working on other updates that move the product forward”.
This results in progress becoming stagnant. In other words, technical debt will drain a tech team's productivity, leading to slower and slower output. Trying to build on a piece of code that was originally poorly written is more challenging for a QA team to test, which makes necessary updates to your software even harder to roll out"
Quantifying Technical Debt
Knowing how to quantify your technical debt is the first step to mitigating its effects. Measuring technical debt can be complex as there are many variables to consider. Think if it this way; Technical debt ratio is the ratio of the cost to fix the codebase compared to building it and can be measured in either time or monetary value.
Technical Debt Ratio = (Remediation Cost / Development Cost) x 100%
This Tech Debt Ratio is essential because it shows you the time you have to spend to transform bad code into well-written code. As we said before, a certain amount of technical debt is inevitable, so tech teams need to understand which debt is most essential to eliminate first in terms of what will increase efficiency and raise the quality of code overall. The focus should be on the top priority elements by exploiting the opportunities as for the previous steps.
How Codiga Can Help Reduce Technical
Utilizing the right tools can help you get ahead of technical debt and ensure that it never gets out of hand. Codiga has a number of features that can help engineering teams identify and prevent technical debt.
Let's start with our Automated Code Review feature. A combination of manual and automated code reviews is always a good idea to ensure you’re catching as many bugs as possible which can save you a lot of time in the long run. With Codiga, you can do real-time code reviews, follow code quality metrics, and ensure that your development team stays on track. Codiga’s Automated Code Review tool is designed to complement the manual review process, not replace it, so it is vital to remember to still conduct manual code reviews, even when you are pressed for time and trying to get a project live ASAP. Codiga’s automated Code Reviews provide instant feedback on lines of code as you write them directly in your working environment. This means that any issues with a line of code will be caught early on and wont cause an issue in the future. When using Code Review, Codiga’s Automated Code Review algorithm will detect defective code and highlight potential issues prior to you submitting it for a standard manual review. This can save a team countless hours of time and stress and make the manual code review process a lot easier and quicker, which in turn can have a hugely positive effect on keeping your technical debt in a good place.
Outside of this, Codiga’s Coding Assistant tool and Smart Code Snippets feature is another way for teams to be proactive about keeping their technical debt low. When working on a task, especially one that is being rushed, it is extremely common for engineers to use code snippets. These reusable blocks of code can be a real time-saver and help an engineer form the basis of a task and mitigate the need for them to spend what little time they have writing repetitive code that has already been created. Most engineers will spend a decent chunk of their time searching for the appropriate code snippet online, but this can lead to implications that can cause your technique to rise. A lot of the time, it can be very time consuming searching the web for code snippets that are a match for what you need. Additionally, these code snippets can also contain defects, which can lead to more serious bugs later in the project if not detected earlier which will cause your technical debt to rise.
Smart Code Snippets allow you to find, add, store and use code snippets, without having to leave your IDE! All of Codiga’s features have been designed to be as easy to implement into a current workflow as possible, and anyone dealing with technical debt knows that time is of the essence. Coding Assistant gives users access to a growing library of Smart Code Snippets that have been added and vetted by thousands of other developers who use the Codiga platform.
All Smart Code Snippets live on the Codiga Hub. This search engine allows you to favor code snippets so that they populate in your IDE when needed with just a simple command. You can also add your own Smart Code Snippet that can be shared with the entire Codiga platform, privately or with a specified team. The team sharing option is a great way to get ahead of any potential issues, as it allows teams to easily share their coding patterns with one another which in turn saves time doing repetitive work and therefore minimizes the risk of bugs occurring. This can help to prevent technical issues as all Smart Code Snippets have been vetted by our network of talented engineers, so you can feel assured that the code you are utilizing is free from bugs and defects.
Technical Debt is an annoying but inevitable part of the software development process, but if you take the necessary steps to get ahead, you can make sure it never gets to a point where it completely destroys a team's productivity and morale. Technical debt is pricey in a lot of ways, so the right tools that can keep you above water can be a game-changer. If you want to learn more abou Codiga’s features and how they can help you prevent and reduce technical debt, check out our website now or reach out to our team on discord!