As everyone rushes to stay competitive in the global market, the need to automate is ever-present. Customers have exceptionally high expectations. In fact, they have all the power.
If businesses don’t deliver on their demand, they can simply go somewhere else. Easily. Organizations need to push hard, adapting the relevant application stacks to stay competitive.
And yet, that comes at a cost. The side-effect of constantly pushing to exceed expectations with endless features and new systems while on a tight deadline (not to mention having limited resources) is that these applications incur an increasing amount of technical debt.
What Is Technical Debt?
Technical debt is a result of cruft or poor, badly designed, rushed, and sometimes overly complex code. This isn’t to say it’s a result of bad developers, though.
In fact, it’s often not.
Instead, it’s code that’s rushed together to create a task with the goal of possibly revisiting later on if it needs to be corrected. Except, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Types of Technical Debt
- Planned: When a business understands that a planned project will lead to technical debt and they willingly take it on as part of a critical goal. However, this can be risky as technical debt adds up quickly. And any potential benefits of rushing development can quickly be lost.
- Unavoidable: New requests to an existing project that make existing code irrelevant (typically a result of scope creep, technological advances, and other corporate-level changes).
- Accidental: Mistakes made by developers as a result of poor abilities, communication, unreasonable demands, etc.
Technical Debt: A Credit Card Analogy
To better understand technical debt, it helps to think about credit cards. When you use your credit card, there’s typically a grace period where you don’t have to pay interest. If you pay off your credit card during these times, you don’t need to worry about additional charges.
If you don’t fully pay off your credit card, that debt follows you, slowly growing. Suddenly, more and more of your payments go to interest instead of the principle. And the only way to get out is if you work harder and dedicate more resources to eliminating it.
Except, with credit card debt, it’s quantified. There’s a specific number you need to reach to get out of it. Technical debt isn’t like this. It’s difficult to quantify. It may be a quick fix or a resource-intensive nightmare. The only way to really know is to fix it.
And if you ignore it, that only makes it worse because every minute you spend working on code that’s full of cruft, your technical debt increases…
Specific Sources of Technical Debt
Technical debt often happens because cruft causes problems later on in the project’s development. That’s because technical debt is only technical debt if you have to go back and fix it. If you leave it alone, there isn’t an issue.
But that’s not always an option.
Then, you might be wondering, “why does it exist in the first place?” On the surface, it makes sense to avoid it, but that’s if you’re only looking at your business as if it were in a vacuum. That’s rarely the case.
Rarely do developers set out with the goal of drowning in technical debt. Instead, there are many reasons for their existence, and not all of them can be prevented.
Sources of Technical Debt:
- Shortcuts made to get the product ready by the deadline
- Poorly defined parameters for the application
- Subpar coding due to lack of experienced coders available
- Lack of tools necessary to properly prepare and the product
- Insufficient testing with a “fix it later” mentality
It’s important to underscore that technical debt isn’t always a result of ineptitude or a lack of foresight. Not all projects need to be trimmed. Some are temporary solutions, and the payoff simply isn’t there to remove the cruft.
At other times, a project that was a temporary solution becomes more permanent, and then the technical debt has to be dealt with before moving forward.
Technical Debt Solutions
Technical debt also happens due to a disconnect between IT departments, project developers, the C-Suite. Remember, not all technical debt is bad. As long as you leave the code alone, you’re fine. Cleaning it up creates problems.
That’s why you need a strategy to keep on top of your technical debt, so it doesn’t become a major problem down the road.
Here’s how to stay on top of technical debt:
- Keep track of all technical debt, don’t ignore or hide it
- Organize tasks into approachable targets
- List the projected effects of each technical debt issue
- Make list accessible by all teams and leaders
- Communicate the amount of technical debt in a project and its limitations
- Make efforts to regularly reduce technical debt to avoid catastrophic consequences
- Test and rerun code to ensure bugs have been fixed
Low Code as a Solution to Technical Debt
Not every business can afford the cost of a development team. And even if your company is a large organization, your DevOps is most likely already burdened with heavy demands within the organization. Building new features. Solving tickets. Internal requests.
All of these things absorb the IT department’s time. Managing technical debt can sometimes push programmers who are already stretched to the edge. Luckily, low code solutions go a long way to freeing up resources.
Businesses are under constant pressure to stay relevant. Usually, they do this by adding new features and expand offerings that deliver on or exceed customer expectations. All while balancing the technical debt of legacy systems.
But using low code, developers can quickly implement lasting solutions with minimal technical debt. And non-developers can also step in and relieve the burdens of IT departments by easily building their own applications.
After all, low code applications were designed with the “citizen developer” in mind. By definition, they have minimal code. Instead, low code relies on easy to access visual interfaces to build various applications.
Not only that, but they’re quick to set up and integrate through APIs. This gives developers more time to focus on core applications and processes.
Kevin Shuler is the CEO of Quandary Consulting Group, a team of tech consultants that specialize in business process management. They use integrations and automations to help businesses scale as they grow, giving them more time to focus on what matters most.