Understanding and addressing technical debt

The Atom Team

Understanding and addressing technical debt

Technical debt is a term that often gets thrown around in the software development industry, but what exactly does it mean? In a recent podcast episode, Mark Zurich, CTO at Fairmeadow Technology and Bhairav shed some light on this topic.

In a bid to be agile and lean, a startup might opt for an easy yet limited alternative, such as an out of the box website. Technical debt occurs when the cost of future work mounts up due to these ‘quick fixes’ such as work-arounds or having to build a completely new solution. 

Acknowledging the existence of technical debt

It is always important for teams to acknowledge technical debt. Measuring and labelling technical debt will help to gain a better understanding of its impact. By quantifying the risk associated with technical debt, teams have more productive discussions about prioritising it on the product roadmap.

Framing technical debt as business risk

To overcome resistance from stakeholders like executive teams, CFOs, product management personnel, and sales teams who may not want to hear about technical debt, so that is why it should be framed as a business risk. 

By highlighting how technical debt affects business outcomes and impedes progress in delivering new features or products, organisations can secure support for addressing it.

The challenge for early-stage businesses

Early stage businesses often struggle with clearly defining roles such as product management or product support. This lack of clarity can make conversations about technical debt challenging since commercial priorities may overshadow concerns raised by tech teams. Bridging this gap requires establishing defined processes and structures within organisations.

Leadership support is critical

Addressing technical debt requires leadership support across the entire organisation. Various factors such as software architecture quality, relationships with sales teams, development team performance, DevOps culture adoption, automation commitment and effective communication all contribute to managing technical debt successfully.

Automation tools for visibility into technical debt

Integrated tools in the development chain can provide visibility into identifying and quantifying technical debt’s impact accurately.

Automated CI/CD pipelines coupled with application security tools offer constant feedback on areas needing improvement. Additionally, the growing demand for customers for independent audits further drives the need for organisations to quantify and address technical debt. 

Bridging the gap between tech and business

One common challenge faced by CTOs is the disconnect between technical teams and business stakeholders. When CTOs communicate in technical jargon, it can hinder effective collaboration. From their side, effective CTOs need to develop their ability to speak in terms of business outcomes and clearly communicate with non-technical stakeholders.

Addressing technical debt is essential for maintaining a healthy software development process. By acknowledging its existence, framing it as a business risk, securing leadership support, and utilising automation tools for visibility, organisations can effectively manage technical debt and avoid future complications. 

It’s crucial to foster collaboration between tech teams and other departments within the organisation to ensure everyone understands the importance of addressing technical debt.

Managing technical debt is not just about making improvements, it’s about creating sustainable software development practices that drive long-term success.

This blog was inspired by insights shared in a podcast episode featuring Mark Zurich and Bhairav Patel, listen here.

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