Technical debt arises whenever you decide to do something that requires effort to correct at a later date.
For example, if you’re writing code in a programming language which hasn’t been updated in years and doesn’t support modern approaches to testing and development (like unit tests), then this is an example of technical debt.
You might decide not to migrate away from this old version of the language because it would be too much work or cause too much disruption – but since this decision has already been made, there will now be extra work required later on to make changes in future versions.
Development teams encounter technical debt for several reasons, both internal and external:
In short, technical debt is any component that detracts from the value proposition delivered by an agile software project—and there are plenty out there!
We distinguish 4 types of Technical Debt
Everything we do affects technical debt and we should be aware of the impact. Throughout every sprint, we need to know how much refactoring has been done and how much more is necessary. This can be measured by tracking hours spent on refactoring and the size of user stories in the backlog compared to the agile team’s velocity.
Refactoring is the process of improving code without changing its external behaviour.
We need to plan for paying off technical debt in every sprint. It’s impossible to know the exact consequences of each change until it’s implemented, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some idea of what needs to happen down the road. This ensures that when problems arise, they don’t derail your team’s progress.
If you know that two weeks from now you’ll need all new API endpoints and authentication systems, then now would be the perfect time to start planning out how those changes will occur without impacting other projects or causing unnecessary delays.
While technical debt is a useful tool, it must be managed carefully. If left to grow unchecked, it can have a negative impact on the team, product and business.
Technical debt can be managed by paying it down with refactoring. By doing this, you’ll improve the codebase while reducing technical debt at the same time!
In conclusion, technical debt can have its merits as it may save a lot of time. It can help land a critical customer when the product is released early or achieve cost savings that can be invested elsewhere. – as long as we keep its existence in the back of our heads and allocate time to deal with it in the (near) future!
Originally published May 11, 2022 11:32:49 AM, updated May 11 2022.