How to minimize technical debt in your software project

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While developing software, most developers often aim at delivering the project in the shortest time possible. However, building projects under pressure leads to leaving behind a huge technical debt that could affect the performance and maintainability of the software in the long term. 

According to the developer coefficient study done by Stripe, software engineers spend an average of 33% of their time fixing technical debt. That means in a 10-hour workday; these developers spend about 3.3 hours fixing bad code. However, this could have been avoided if the problem is technical debt is dealt with ahead of time. 

This article is for you to learn more about minimising technical debt in your software projects. We shall discuss what technical debt is, its causes, and how to minimise it in your software projects. Let’s get started.

What is technical debt?

Technical debt refers to the cost (time and money) you will have to incur later in the software development project as a result of taking a shorter route that ignores the best coding practices. Technical can be a result of internal or external reasons, and some of these include the following.

  • Pressure from clients
  • Lack of skill
  • Lack of proper planning
  • Absence or delayed code refactoring in the development process
  • Small teams handling a complex project

Minimising technical debt

Reaching zero technical debt may not be realistic for most software projects, but your aim as a developer or team leader is to minimise the technical debt as much as you can. Below are some of the ways you can achieve this.  

1.Make reviewing a routine.

One of the things that most developers and team leaders get wrong is reviewing code only after making significant progress with the project. The downside to this approach is the complexity of reviewing big chunks of code. It is much easier for the reviewer to spot errors in a few lines of code as compared to thousands of lines of code. 

For more efficient and effective reviewing, this process should be routine during the development process. If you have a bigger team, you should let some of your developers fully concentrate on reviewing code and not any other task. 

2.Ensure all stakeholders are aware of the negative effects of technical debt

Building a successful software project requires all the stakeholders of the project to have a common understanding of how the work should be done and agree on the best timeline for achieving each milestone of the project. Before you get started with a project, the client, team leaders, and the developers need to know what technical debt is, and the impact it has on the long-term and short-term performance and maintainability of the software you are building. 

When everyone is on the same page regarding the effects of technical debt, it is easier to agree on the most practical timelines for hitting each target set. Most of the time, pressure from leaders and clients results from their ignorance and not appreciating the impact of using good software development practices. It is also necessary for them to know that improving code quality is a gradual process. 

3.Use automated code review tools.

If you want to save time while reviewing code, it is necessary to use automated tools for code testing and eliminating most of the common errors in your code. You may have to incur some costs because most of these tools are not free, but the reward you get at the end of the day is improving code quality and saving time. Tools that can perform these functions include Sonarqube, Code Climate and BlueOptima

4.Follow the best coding practices.

Whether on pressure or not, there shouldn’t be any excuse for not following the best coding practices. The best coding practices may not be the same for all languages and frameworks, but most of these practices are the same.  By following the recommended practices of the languages and frameworks you are using, you will get cleaner code that is easier to review and make changes later when the need arises. 

You may take some time if you choose to follow the best practices while working on projects. However, you will save much more time in the future when updating, maintaining, or adding new functionalities to the project. 

5.Use a flexible architecture.

The architecture design you choose to use in your projects will have an impact on how easy it is to deal with technical debt. An architecture that doesn’t make it easy to make changes and maintain the code becomes a costly technical debt that may be hard to deal with. Before getting started with the project, it is necessary to decide the most ideal architectural design to use to avoid having issues along the way. 

Conclusion 

Technical debt is a crucial matter that any software developer or team leader needs to take seriously during any software development project. Using the methods to minimise technical debt that we have shared above may take time and money to implement, but they will save you a lot of time and money down the road. 

Implementing these methods will also require the input of not only the developers but all stakeholders that include the team leaders and sometimes the client. It is also better to have a clear plan of how you intend to minimise technical debt ahead of time so that you put aside resources for dealing with this problem.