Technical Debt in Software Projects

Technical Debt in Software Development & How to Manage it

They say time is money. And regarding software development, some costs go up when there is a delay. So, technical debt arises and grows when a contractor delays software projects. Therefore, most developers ensure a project’s speedy delivery compared to how perfect it is. Read on to understand more about technical debt.


Technical debt refers to the system deviation from its non-functional necessities. Technical dent is not something that happens by mistake. There is some intentionality involved. It involves taking a deliberate shortcut to gain some advantage. However, this shortcut always presents a risk to the future of the project. Technical debt is a great tool that most developers use to get ahead. We can call it a conscious loan a user takes to achieve a particular need or demand. You can equate technical debt to postponing paying some of your bills.

Causes of technical debt

It is common knowledge that any business will incur debt at some point. This is no exception in the technical field. However, with technical debt, numerous red flags will present themselves during the process. One can avoid technical debt if one observes these red flags. Some of them include:

  1. Focusing on fast delivery

Many organizations always look forward to shipping the product as soon as possible. This piles a lot of pressure on the development process and teams. In turn, the developers may choose to overlook specific steps and cycles and prefer to develop poor executing codes. This then brings about the rise of technical debt. The technical debt will keep growing if the developers don’t address these red flags and inconsistencies.

  1. Misunderstanding of the term ‘complete.’

In production, the term ‘done’ refers to completing the pre-decided task according to user requirements. In most cases, development teams consider the customer story. After they ensure that the project passes all quality testing, it is ready for market release. However, additional changes are not part of the initial requirements. So, a project can be complete without these changes. However, this brings about an increase in technical debt.

  1. Focusing on product-market fit

A good product solves its intended purpose. So, if the software meets its desired objectives, it is suitable for the market. Most organizations and software developers aim to take the product to the market as soon as possible. It is easy to ignore unresolved issues and messy code if the product fits the need. But, in the long run, it will cause performance issues and constant failure.

  1. Feature creep and architecture

In any software development process, requirements often increase during the development and future. This leads to constant change in the product. In most cases, fixing bugs comes in last and is sometimes often ignored. This leads to more technical debt.

  1. Increasing WIP limits

Work in progress (WIP) is the upper limit of tasks that one can have within a workflow. This can be the maximum number of individuals working on the project. There is a risk of work overload and priority confusion if there is an increase beyond the WIP limit. This will then affect quality, efficiency, and productivity.

  1. Unmanageable scalability

In some cases, the demand for new features makes the team lose focus. This is attributed to how fast technology moves and most inventions get outdated quickly.

Identifying technical debt

  1. There is an increase in backlog and reduced productivity
  2. Increase in the WIP beyond the limit
  3. The products will start having numerous bags
  4. Too long source codes that take up a lot of space
  5. If the additional feature will require writing new and long codes
  6. If the testing process is complicated and painstaking
  7. The final cost of the product goes far beyond the initial budgeted cost
  8. There is a rise in the frequency of hotfixes
  9. Increase in hard-to-read code

Types of technical debt

There are two types of technical debt. They include:

  1. Deliberate

We can link this to injecting technical debt into the software development process. We also refer to it as planned debt. In this case, a company will allow technical debt with full cognizance of the consequences. In this case, we can have two interpretations that include prudent and reckless.

Prudent: In this case, the extent of technical debt is sizable and manageable. It is easy to do away with this debt since it involves non-sensitive code.

Reckless: In this case, the agile team focuses more on taking the product to market than ensuring that the code works properly.

  1. Inadvertent

In this case, we can say that it is unintentional. On the other hand, it may result from inefficient coordination, rollout issues, lack of experience with coding, and poor technological practices. Similar to deliberate, there are two interpretations.

Prudent: After product delivery, the ream realizes areas of improvement, making it easy for future improvement.

Reckless: The team has little to no experience dealing with agile practices. It leads to technical debt, which later becomes a bigger burden.

The cost of technical debt

Many organizations today are paying more attention to agile processes because they know the cost of technical debt. In other cases, technical debt may damage a company and collapse. Some of the bad results of technical debt include:

  • Loss of customer interest due to delay in bug fixes or new launches
  • Technical debt will require you to increase staff to identify and manage it
  • There will be frequent system breakdowns from the addition of features, bug fixes, and constant code modification
  • Increase performance problems that will contribute to slow innovation and poor product responsiveness.

Is technical debt bad?

Incurring debt at any level is never good news. For instance, you will have to pay any debt in your name at one point or another. However, there are situations where debt does more good than harm. In this case, it is worth taking the risk when you want an early launch that will pay off. However, the more you delay technical debt payback, the riskier it gets, and it might impact system performance and become unmanageable. Therefore, it is good practice to keep technical debt to a minimum.

How to manage technical debt

Company culture: It is essential to have an open company culture where agile teams can discuss ways of achieving goals and dealing with challenges.

Organize daily synch: A serious organization will ensure that they handle each case as soon as possible. So, it is essential to have daily standouts that provide space to point out challenges and areas of improvement.

Balance sprints: Have a balance between large projects and small tasks. You should spare time to handle small tasks such as bug fixes and manage pending jobs.

Collective responsibility: This implies empowering each member to handle all tasks that include bug fixes, completing pending tasks, new feature development, and changing code. It helps reduce technical debt.

Prioritize quality over speed: Even if it will take longer, having a good quality product is better than developing issues in the long run. So, the organization should be mindful of the risks of speedy products that do not meet the intended quality.

Implement CI/CD: This goes along with automation testing when developing a product. It makes it easier to identify bugs and ensure that the products meet the user stories.

Load management: Too much work might make the developers tempted to take the easy way out or miss deadlines. Managing the workload ensures that the team can work optimally.

Sustainable refactoring vs. daily refactoring: We use regular refactoring for projects that don’t require much work. This gives developers enough time to fix bugs. Sustainable refactoring deals with new feature development at 80% and allows 20% of the time for small code and bug fixes.


Technical debt can work either for the good or the bad of an organization or user. Understanding technical debt will help you avoid, manage and take advantage of it.

Written by:

Muzammil K

Muzammil K is the Marketing Manager at Aalpha Information Systems, where he leads marketing efforts to drive business growth. With a passion for marketing strategy and a commitment to results, he's dedicated to helping the company succeed in the ever-changing digital landscape.

Muzammil K is the Marketing Manager at Aalpha Information Systems, where he leads marketing efforts to drive business growth. With a passion for marketing strategy and a commitment to results, he's dedicated to helping the company succeed in the ever-changing digital landscape.