5 Strategies to Avoid Technical Debt
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5 Strategies to Avoid Technical Debt

Optimally, you want your software to be a hundred percent future-proof, use the latest and greatest libraries that are available, and have full code coverage so that you never ever have to look at your code again. Unfortunately, though, that is almost never a reality. The reality is that when you create an application, you often have to deal with deadlines. And this means that because of these deadlines, you are almost never able to do things perfectly. This is where you bring in shortcuts in your programs to make sure things work. But you know that you will most likely have to address issues that arise in the future because of those shortcuts. This is what technical debt is, and in this article, we will take a look at five strategies you can use to avoid technical debt.

Types of Technical Debt

There are three main types of technical debt:

Deliberate Technical Debt

As mentioned earlier, deadlines prevent you from doing things perfectly and accurately and force you to use shortcuts that you know you have to take care of in the future.

Accidental Technical Debt

When you initially design your software, you try to find a balance between future-proofing the design and being able to deliver something to the market quickly. When the requirements of the market change, your software will need to do things differently, making your original design outdated. Similarly, when you rely on libraries that get updated, you have to update the software to use the new version of the library.

Bit Rot

This type of technical debt is when you or your team members make small incremental changes to the code without completely understanding how the design of the system was originally intended, you end up with layer upon layer, and the product starts losing efficiency, and things become less clear and rotten.

Strategies to Avoid Technical Debt

If you want to keep technical debt in your organization in check, you need to manage it actively. Here are five ways you can avoid technical debt:

Design Before Code

You can greatly diminish technical debt in the beginning stage of software development by thinking about your design before you start writing the code. At this stage, making changes is still easy, so you can take a methodical approach to come up with the perfect design. The basic seven steps you should take are:

  • Research
  • Exploration
  • Prototyping
  • Validation
  • Hand-off
  • Supporting and Review
  • Tracking

Code Review

The second strategy to avoid technical debt has to do with understanding the importance of having a code review in place so that you can avoid certain things and occurrences, such as bit rot. Another thing that you need to do other than having a code review is to explicitly define, somewhere, a set of practices and standards that you as a team adhere to. Another important aspect of this strategy is to make the whole team responsible, as a whole, for the quality of the code and not just the person who wrote it.

A badly written method should not be the fault of a single individual as it is the responsibility of the whole team to make sure that the code is of good quality. What this does is that it makes each member of the team take these code reviews seriously.

Automated Testing

You can use an automated solution, like a bot, to subject your product to rigorous testing. Each time a module change gets completed, multiple debugging cycles of automated testing can ensure that the code is free of any bugs. Investing in automated testing is more beneficial than organizing test sprints. Repetitive bugs can also be taken care of by incorporating bug fixing into automation software. It prevents future issues from arising as well as saves the time of engineers.

Establishment and Standardization of Codes

A code that is sub-standard reaps only short-term benefits. Establishing and standardizing codes is one of the best strategies to avoid technical debt. By following a good methodology and structure for developing the code, you can strategize the product better and help reduce debt. You can leverage pair programming as well to generate better results as two developers will be working on a single system, one as a navigator and the other as the driver.

Using Issue Trackers

By tracking software issues and fixing them quickly, you can avoid technical debt. Tools such as Klocwork and SonarGraph evaluate the code and flag an error that appears while running the script. You can restructure the problematic areas by checking them later, which will save time, generate better results, and fix the code.

Even if you do end up with technical debt, make sure to keep it explicit. A “yeah, we will take care of it at some point” approach is never good, and you need to write down the task of addressing and remediating the issue as a part of your sprint planning. For instance, you can add technical debt to your backlog as items so that you always know what they are and you are aware that they need to be taken care of at some point in the future.

For example, if you are using, let us say, Trello to manage your backlog, add technical debt items there as well, among the other regular things that you put in there. Doing this explicitly can be of significant help as every time you plan your sprint, you will also see your technical debt items, and you can decide to plan them in if there is some room.

Conclusion to 5 Strategies to Avoid Technical Debt

Using these strategies will allow you to avoid technical debt, which is never a good sign for any company. Even though it is never possible to mitigate all chances of a technical debt happening, the impact it has on you can certainly be reduced in a significant manner. Contact us to learn more about the 5 Strategies to Avoid Technical Debt.

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