Why is technical debt becoming increasingly important?


November 29, 2019

Why is technical debt becoming increasingly important

For most people, debt is a part of their everyday life. Hence, if you are probably planning on taking a debt, how can you be sure it’s going to be worth it? How do you assume when the cost involved is equal to the benefits? Well, in some instances, good debts secure your financial future, while bad debt harms it. In software development, let’s assume we are in the process of developing a product. We decide to make short-term decisions to its code or quality of the design. The product becomes more difficult for someone else to continue development, test, and maintenance in the future — this concept in software development or programming refers to technical debt.

Technical debt is very similar to financial debt in that software developer’s use when talking about the extra costs associated with changing a system’s codebase and architecture. It can involve debugging code or revising requirements for a weak design or aging third-party library. Technical debt is significant to most organizations using software to run their business as it costs time as well as money. Gartner estimated that the sum amount of technical debt worldwide reached $1 trillion in 2015 and could double its figure in the coming years. 

With this in mind, let’s look at what technical debt is and a few reasons why technical debt is becoming increasingly important. 

What is technical debt?

The phrase technical debt was first coined by software developer, Ward Cunningham in 1992 when he was explaining to non-technical stockholders at Wycash why resources need to be budgeted for refactoring. In line with Martin Fowler's explanation of technical debt, software systems are likely to be built with cruft; deficiencies in the internal systems due to carelessness or leveraged intentionally. This cruft’s usually stemmed from the developers’ lack of regard for due process, quickness, or even messiness, regularly trying to accomplish results quicker. In another way, for a software development project to come to completion, it requires some level of balance in speed and quality. And sometimes, the quality will have to be sacrificed on the altar of time for the product to be released on schedule. So some processes are skipped for shortcuts. Now those unattended tasks moved for future projects are what is called technical debt. 

There are many reasons why technical debt occurs. One of the reasons is that product owners may align their development goals with the need to implement and release new features and worry less about fixing past problems or to put in place a generic infrastructure to support future works. While in some cases, product owners entirely disregard the potential risks of dealing with poor infrastructure, bugs, and poorly designed software. In any case, technical debt can result from carelessness (incidentally or not), it can likewise be done intentionally. Tech debt outlines how to consider managing this internal cruft, considering it like financial debt; the additional effort that it takes to include new highlights is the interest paid on the debt.

Eventually, technical debt can sometimes leave end-users with bad experiences and become an important huddle for product owners. 

Why Is Technical debt important?

Tech debt can be a useful tool

With technical debt, a product can experience rapid gains and expedite delivery. Just like when someone decides to take out a loan on a property as a means to reinvest into a buzzing real estate market before being priced out. Tech debt can be used as a tool for getting ahead.  

Let’s look at this financial analogy. Say a business has applied for a $2 million loan (actual debt) from a bank and has a monthly $3 million in revenue. So will you advise the company to pay up the whole debt immediately? Definitely, No. the remaining $1 million won’t be able to cover running costs and payroll expenses.  Paying off the debt over time would be the smart thing to do because as long as revenue grows more than debt, the debt turns out to be an investment, not a debt.

Well, as programmers, we allow a certain level of technical debt to speed up the delivery of a project. This way, we get to release a new feature and products faster which allows our company and the log analysis community to grow. Nothing is ever perfect, and software is not. If we focus too much time on fixing relatively minor issues and bugs, then we position ourselves for stagnation.

Technical debt accumulation over time can be risky. That’s why frequent code refactoring can be of good use. You can use nerd.vision non-intrusive debugging tool to refactor your codes in the most efficient way.



Nick is our Marketing Owner and works from our UK office, he has a wealth of experience in digital & data marketing and is a Certified Scrum Product Owner.