17Oct 2022

What is Technical Debt in Software Development and how to manage it? Examples and Best Practices

Technical debt builds up when development teams take too many shortcuts to hasten the delivery of a feature or software release. The idea of completing a project as rapidly as feasible frequently leads to issues that need to be rectified afterward.

Technical debt may spread from development teams to the platforms, processes, and IT operations groups that support essential company functions, including production, order fulfillment, shipping, and customer service.

As firms continue to modify established business and development processes to address the difficulties of the pandemic, reducing technical Debt in Software Development is crucial. 

Learn how to effectively manage and eliminate technical debt throughout a project portfolio by looking at frequent examples and best practices.

A practical approach to controlling technical debt can mean the difference between a software project’s success and failure. On the other hand, neglecting to recognize or disregard tech debt can result in increased development expenses and decreased commercial benefits. 

Given the significance of the situation, understanding and managing technical debt ought to be a top concern for both software developers and senior decision-makers.

What Is Technical Debt in Software Development?

Technical debt develops when software development teams prioritize rapid delivery above the highest possible code quality. Often, this is done on purpose. 

Users could require functionality immediately; therefore, developers choose to release “good enough” code to fix it later. The metaphor of debt is applicable. 

When one acquires a debt, it’s frequently because temporary access to funds is required. However, when that loan must be repaid, this results in later costs.

Similar to this, technical debt trades immediate convenience for future labor. Just as charges and penalties may collect if loan payments are not made, the code may become an issue if it is not eventually reviewed and fixed. 

Technical debt isn’t always a problem, but it can develop into one if the product isn’t optimized well or if broken code is allowed to spread. A move toward agile development methodologies may increase the danger of accruing technical debt. 

Developers under pressure to bring out new code every day or every few hours may skip documentation rules or testing since DevOps promotes frequent code releases and ongoing improvement.

Technical debt in software development is not necessarily a negative thing, however. It is frequently required for a project to proceed. 

But most importantly, technical debt is a risk that all project managers must be aware of, prevent if feasible, and identify (especially when it’s underpaid and accrues charges on top of interest).

Examples of Technical Debt

Using a few examples and best practices can help you comprehend technical debt in software development.

Here are a few instances that show the many kinds of technical debt you could run into ;

1. Job Stability Through Obscurity

Technical debt has a considerable lack of collaboration as a significant reason. Another issue that arises when a programmer, engineer, or system administrator withholds knowledge about their jobs from coworkers is job security through secrecy. 

Teams might not even be aware that ability is eroding over time, whether information isolation is the product of individual intentions or is simply the nature of a given function. 

IT personnel who have complete authority over a process must be in charge of keeping it documented; even if the resource is not commonly used, it should still exist.

2. No Documentation

Technical debt in software development is frequently caused by a lack of technical documentation, especially for infrastructure and project code. 

Particularly for projects with a limited budget, technical documentation is simple to overlook or undervalue. 

But bringing in more technical writers won’t solve the problem of documentation-based technical debt. Instead, businesses should integrate paperwork into their DevOps culture and automate it across development processes. 

Managers must also uphold employee responsibility for role-related documents. The Year 2000 problem is a prime illustration of technological debt. 

According to estimates, fixing the issue costs $100 billion. The Y2K problem was mostly caused by documentation debt.

 3. Viruses and Remote Employment

Due to COVID-19, remote work has become more commonplace, and with it has come a jumble of technical debt related to security, infrastructure, and operations. 

The majority of technical debt in software development caused by the epidemic could not be prevented since businesses had to adapt as soon as feasible. The shift impacted enterprise cloud strategies to remote work since cloud migrations were accelerated. 

Internal cloud projects accelerated, and IT operations teams used shortcuts to maintain the productivity of business users, adding even further technical debt. The potential exists for shortcuts to accrue technical debt on par with code-based debt.

4. Incompetent IT Leadership

Technical debt in software development is a result of individuals’ inadequate IT leadership. The management teams and customers’ awareness can be swiftly lost when cloud and containerization trends develop quickly. 

Technical debt results from firms frequently implementing pointless tools or choosing options they don’t fully grasp.

Based on empirical findings, software engineers claim to waste, in general, 23-42% of their productive time as a result of Technical debt.

Percentage of Time Wasted on Technical Debt
Percentage of Time Wasted on Technical Debt – Image Source: Codescene

5. Low-Quality Software Code

Software code of poor quality is the most obvious example of technical debt. Poor code quality can be caused by a variety of factors, including the following:

Lack of specified coding standards for developers, ad hoc or zero developer onboarding, and developers that are eager to adopt the newest tools although the project has no business rationale for the product

Other causes include time constraints that result from poor planning or when developers must rebuild code that was outsourced. Technical debt in software development can reach dangerous proportions as a result of these instances.

6. A Lack of Software Testing

 A Lack of Software Testing
A Lack of Software Testing

Software testing is another simple shortcut that leads to disaster. 

Such technical debt is typical in businesses that don’t support quality assurance and haven’t yet adopted DevOps, which offers automated testing possibilities.

The use of DevOps is expanding quickly. According to IDC, the global DevOps software market will grow from $2.9 billion in 2017 to $6.6 billion in 2022.

Best Practices To Manage Technical Debt

In terms of managing technical debt, there is no universal recipe. Some strategies for a tiny startup may not always work for a team of more than 100 employees troubleshooting a system at the corporate level. 

Let’s examine various examples and best practices you may employ to manage your present technical debt and reduce the emergence of new defects;

1. Calculate Technical Debt

There are two methods for calculating technical debt in software development: Top-down and Bottom-up. The IT staff can determine the technical debt associated with IT infrastructure, design, procedures, and integration using the top-down method. 

The added expenses related to the diversity of system hardware can be calculated and addressed by IT professionals using this strategy. 

The bottom-up methodology will aid in discovering safety, performance, and bug issues in code. This approach weighs coding irregularities using a code scanner.

2. Include the Whole Team in the Process

Developers are in the best position to gain insightful knowledge about technical debt, which can be used to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of properly planning and controlling it. 

By discussing examples and best practices with developers and your staff for long-term flexibility and scalability, technical debt for that project can be handled.

Lack of knowledge exchange among project team members reduces productivity, which leads to technical debt. The exchange of critical information can be improved by using online collaboration tools such as WebEx and GoToMeeting.

Using WebEx for Meetings
Using WebEx for Meetings – Image Source: Webex

3. Leverage Better Data 

The CIOs (senior technology executives inside a business) should access more accurate data to reduce software applications’ technical debt. 

Many CIOs use cutting-edge tools like AI to analyze codes, spot abnormalities and get a detailed view of the software quality to power their companies.

4. Employ Time and Resources

Software development organizations must invest the necessary time and resources in managing technical debt if it is ever to be effectively handled. 

Instead of waiting until something breaks, the CRM Development Company should allocate time and money to address the concerns about technical debt.

It’s important to prioritize quality code and excellent documentation, but you must also ensure your team has the time and tools necessary to address tech debt. 

Developers won’t be able to address debt-related issues if they are continually pressured to produce new features because debugging and problem-solving require resources and time.

Statistics of Time Wasted on Technical Debt
Statistics of Time Wasted on Technical Debt – Image Source: Chalmers

5. Reframe Software Development Strategy

The best approach to dealing with technical debt in software development is to revise the software development strategy. 

To do this, re-evaluate the preliminary planning and development strategy, find any weak points that led the software development team to incur technical debt, and fill in the gaps. 

The problem can be solved by holding more regular meetings with stakeholders and engineers, introducing new code standards, and setting up a productive system for tracking technical debt.

6. Preserve a Knowledge Base

Maintaining documentation throughout the development process is crucial to make the “repayment” of technical debt easier. 

A knowledge base is a sort of digital documentation that includes different kinds of content (roadmaps, code documentation, checklists, etc.) that team members can share. 

One of the significant advantages of preserving and asserting a knowledge base is that software developers may easily access any content about the project at any stage of development and resolve complex problems more effectively.

The quantity of technical debt and the progress made in lowering it must be recorded. It provides a complete picture of the tasks that have already been completed and your progress in paying off technical debt.

Valuable facts about every task of a technical debt document can be included to track the gradualism of modifications within the system.

7. Recognize the Type of Technical Debt

Even though the current business impact isn’t scalable, it is crucial to accept the current technical debt at the right moment and be mindful of the detrimental effects it will have on your system if developers ignore technical debt reduction.

It is not a worry that can be put on the back burner since it calls for prompt and decisive action to head off potential problems and make it possible to pay off technical debt.

Technical debt in software development is frequently tied to the number or expertise of the internal development team. 

Alternatively, communication can break down if the unit is too big, and the opposite can happen. The first step in resolving the issue is to operate in small teams to identify the platform’s flaws.

8. Refactor Code Structure

Refactor Code Structure

Refactoring involves rearranging disorganized code fragments to make them more understandable and manageable.

Rewriting software product components reduces duplication and boosts efficiency, which is essential for paying off tech debt. 

Additionally, you want to think about enhancing the team’s code review practices and implementing code linting. 

Consider this if you can’t take a break to resolve issues or if a rewrite costs too much money. Refactoring should be done in tandem with testing at each level to ensure that the application’s functions haven’t changed,

Refactoring frequently breaks essential routes; therefore, factor in potential downtime for bug fixes. Even better, create a strategy to reduce breaks.

Code reworking should be done regularly by your team to guarantee ongoing repayment of tech debt. 

9. Give the IT Team the Authority To Locate the Debt Immediately

The personnel should be taught to search for issues in the infrastructure, design, paperwork, and source code. Keep an eye out for code intricacy, redundancy, clarity, and extended functions.

Always identify missing or poorly worded paperwork, such as outdated architectural plans or erroneous instructions. 

If your testing were automated, you’d probably have to go back and physically retest each platform feature. 

You may eliminate these problems by thoroughly training your personnel to recognize them. It is also important to encourage your personnel to learn from some of the examples and best practices of technical debt in software development.

10. Don’t Work With Subpar Developers

Low-quality, inexpensive developers increase tech debt even when actively fixing existing flaws. 

Low-quality developers cost you more than hiring an experienced team when you factor in the amount of money you will lose from producing a less effective product.

It is essential to note the following when hiring developers:

  • Value triumphs over cost.
  • Superior quality to quantity.

Smaller, better teams perform better than larger, less skilled departments. Hiring two top-notch engineers rather than ten subpar programmers is usually preferable. 

You can begin bringing in junior-level employees for in-house training once you have two trustworthy engineers to steer the ship and oversee releases. 

Causes of Technical Debt

As seen in the previously mentioned examples and best practices, it is likely that a company will experience technical debt at some point. 

One might watch out for red flag warnings or expected causes to avoid getting caught in the debt trap. Here is a list of potential reasons for technical debt in software development :

1. Putting a Focus on Shorter Time to Market

Product development companies adhere to the “just ship it” attitude.

They exert pressure on the Agile development team, who ultimately disregard the inbound defects from earlier sprint cycles and continue writing unkempt software, leaving the current inconsistencies in the code unchecked, and technical debt increases.

2. Misunderstood Meaning of Done

Agile’s “Definition of Done” refers to a predetermined list of actions that must be finished before a user story is deemed. 

Agile teams frequently view a user story as complete once it has been handed over to the QA testing team or after the product has gone on sale. 

Technical debt in software development rises because changes based on testing results and user feedback are not included in the definition of done. 

In other words, when iterating through the Agile lifecycle, favoring a project mindset above product mindset results in tech debt.

3. Fixation on Product-Market Fit

A product is said to have a product-market fit if it can address a user’s pain issue and is well-received by consumers.

And for businesses, establishing this product-market fit is the only thing that matters as long as there is a product-market fit, sloppy code and unresolved problems are disregarded. 

Organizations don’t understand, though, how their ignorance can end up costing them a lot over time by accruing technical debts, causing performance problems, and ultimately interrupting PMF(Probability Mass Function).

4. Architecture & Feature Creep

 Architecture & Feature Creep
Architecture & Feature Creep

Software requirements are prone to growing at any stage of the software development process. Designs and sprint prioritizations have changed due to the unpredictability and necessity for frequent modification.

The issue fixes are frequently put off till tomorrow to make room for the more current needs in the product backlog. Consequently, technical debt is rising.

5. Going Beyond WIP Capacity

The term “WIP(Work in Progress) limit” describes the most work that can be active at one time in a workflow. WIP ceilings “number of team members +1 to start with” are ideal. 

If the WIP limit is exceeded, task overload and uncertainty about priorities may result, irrespective of their urgency. 

Due to this, productivity is impacted as the development team concentrates on finishing jobs without concern for quality. Technical debt is the result.


Your understanding of technical debt examples and best practices has improved. 

Technical debt is the price engineers pay when choosing the quickest or simplest coding solution over a more complex one that will produce a better final product. 

Technical debt causes the software’s total entropy to rise over time. The Technical Debt Ratio (TDR), which compares the cost of fixing a system to the cost of developing the software, is simple to measure.

Technical debt in software development can affect several variables, including the expenditure of entire operations, the product’s quality, and the pace of the project. 

It can also easily have an adverse impact on the motivation and performance of teams. The best course of action is to prevent technical debt or to deal with it at the appropriate times throughout the development process. 

By following the above-mentioned examples and best practices, avoiding technical debt will be quite easy.

Acodez is a leading web design company in India offering all kinds of web design and development solutions at affordable prices. We are also an SEO and digital marketing agency offering inbound marketing solutions to take your business to the next level. For further information, please contact us today.

Looking for a good team
for your next project?

Contact us and we'll give you a preliminary free consultation
on the web & mobile strategy that'd suit your needs best.

Contact Us Now!
Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Director at Acodez IT Solutions, who has a rich experience of 16+ years in IT & Digital Marketing. Between his busy schedule, whenever he finds the time he writes up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development. All thanks to his master brain behind the gleaming success of Acodez.

Get a free quote!

Brief us your requirements & let's connect

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *