How to Manage Technical Debt in 4 Steps
Engineers spend 33% of their time on average dealing with technical debt.
Complete productivity loss. And it’s all due to developers spending excessive time on unnecessary system maintenance associated with technical debt. In order to get these numbers under control, you need to manage these issues upfront, instead of waiting to deal with them on the backend when the debt has been exposed.
You should determine how much technical debt your company is comfortable handling. It’s almost impossible to erase all technical debt, so you need to decide what an attainable level would be for your team. Obviously, the lower the better, but everyone’s tolerance will vary. Once you’ve got that down, you can begin taking steps to nail these targets. It’s not going to be easy, yet it’ll be completely worth it. 🙌
Let’s gain a deeper understanding of technical debt and how it can be affecting your business at this very moment.
What is Technical Debt?
On the surface, technical debt is essentially the costs that add up when software systems are implemented quickly without following the outlined guidelines or best practices.
It’s most likely to occur when development teams prioritize speed over long-term quality. The code becomes much harder to work with since the timeline outweighed the end product. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is a phrase coined by the US Navy Seals. Those who rack up a ton of technical debt have never heard this saying—and that’s fine—we’re going to fix that today. 💪
There are several different types of technical debt. Outdated tech, bad code, and decisions that previously worked but now slow things down are all types of debt. As time goes by, it can become a major obstacle to progression and innovation, so it’s critical for development teams to identify and manage it in the best way possible.
One of the most common ways to accumulate technical debt is by performing “quick-fixes” to pressing issues within your serverless architecture, instead of taking the proper amount of time needed to solve them. If left unchecked, they can quickly snowball into other complications down the line.
You should balance the need for speed with the long-term healing of your systems. So let’s put this into action and break it down with four easy-to-follow steps.
Step #1 - Identify Where Technical Debt Resides
The first step to managing your technical debt is to conduct a thorough assessment to identify exactly where the debt is hiding out. 👀
Without a comprehensive understanding of the scope and scale of the technical debt, it’s impossible to manage it effectively. And no, it’s not one of those if you can’t see it, it can’t hurt you, situations. Quite the opposite, actually. 😳
A careful analysis of the existing code base and technology infrastructure can help pinpoint areas of debt that need attention. Some could include quick bug fixes up to potential inefficiencies in the data management process. The technical debt you find during the identification process will be all across the board.
With that said, performing a comprehensive audit of your current technical debt landscape is critical upfront. Otherwise, it will be difficult to develop a solid strategy to manage and reduce the technical debt—which is the entire goal of this article.
Once you’ve completed the extensive review, you’re ready to move on to step #2.
Step #2 - Build a Plan for Long-Term Success
Now that you have pinpointed the sources of your debt, it’s time to develop a comprehensive plan for eliminating as much of the debt as possible—trying to hit the comfort level we mentioned earlier. 🔁
This may involve prioritizing certain areas of debt over others, based on the level of urgency and the available resources you might have at your disposal. For example, it may be necessary to focus on re-coding a critical bug on the website immediately, while continuing to manage excess data in the tech stack for a defined period.
By carefully balancing and ranking priorities, you’ll be able to spend your resources in the most efficient way possible. This is the key to developing an effective plan to eliminate your technical debt and improve your technology infrastructure's overall health. 🔑
So now that you’ve got your plan in place, it’s time to take action.
Step #3 - Execute on Your Plan to Tackle Technical Debt
You’ve identified and made a plan to tackle your technical debt. Now it’s time to carry out and execute it as best you can.
You need to work through the process systematically, with an emphasis on efficiency. This may involve setting aside dedicated time and resources to address the most critical areas of debt. Work through each issue step-by-step, ensuring nothing is missed—this only creates more headaches down the road.
As you or your team is executing the plan, you must set clear expectations for managing the remaining technical debt. Establishing guidelines to follow and marking off tasks as they are completed will ensure you are not reworking or adding more unnecessary debt to the pile.
By deliberately focusing on the areas you’ve identified, you can effectively manage your debt and create a more sustainable technology infrastructure over the long term. 😁
You’ve completed the plan, great job! But there’s still work to be done. 👇
Step #4 - Standardize the Process to Prevent Future Technical Debt
Once you’ve successfully eliminated your technical debt down to as much as you are comfortable with, it’s time to shift focus for a minute.
Reflect on a few instances where the debt created first originated. This will help you prevent further accumulation in the future, so give it some real thought. It may involve standardizing processes within your development team or other creative means. 🤔
For example, implementing a reporting system for temporary code fixes can help identify potential areas of technical debt and enable the team to prioritize follow-up tasks to address these issues properly. By being proactive instead of reactive in addressing these root causes, you’ll be able to clearly see the path forward.
Establish clear guidelines to follow along with the best practices for managing it. You just performed the process, so write these systems down now while they are top of mind. This will ensure your technology infrastructure will remain stable, efficient, and sustainable in the near future. 💪
But remember, it’s always going to be a continuous battle.
As we have shown, managing and eliminating your technical debt can be quite a challenge. By following these four steps and developing your own standardized approach for the future, you’ll have a streamlined process that’s not only effective, but repeatable. 🔁
A tool that can give you the power of speed and efficiency is serverless orchestration. It can aid you in preventing the accumulation of technical debt by automating critical processes and enabling more efficient use of your resources. By leveraging the power of serverless orchestration, your company can reduce the burden of technical debt management and create a more sustainable, scalable technology infrastructure over time.
Learn more about our solutions to manage your technical debt, or get started with our free plan right away.