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The Hidden Costs of Rushing to Market: Navigating Tech Debt

Summer Swann
June 11, 2024

In the fast-paced world of technology and software, time is of the essence. We often see teams in a frenzied rush to launch their products, operating under the belief that, in order to be successful, their app needs to be the first to seize current trends. But does being first always mean being best?

In reality, the quest to be "first" often conflicts with the essential need for long-term success. Compromising best practices and taking shortcuts to launch will inevitably result in technical debt – a serious threat to your products ecosystem… and your success

In this article, we'll delve into technical debt, exploring its causes, far-reaching consequences and, most importantly, effective strategies for mitigating and handling it.

What is Technical Debt?

In the IoT software development process, technical debt is an issue that emerges when developers opt for quick solutions or take shortcuts to meet pressing business demands - typically at the expense of optimal code quality or system design.

These shortcuts, akin to financial debt, accumulate interest over time, gradually complicating the software landscape - complexity mounts with each workaround, resulting in a codebase that is increasingly difficult to decipher, maintain and scale.

While technical debt may provide a temporary reprieve in meeting deadlines or delivering features promptly, its long-term repercussions can be significant. Elevated costs, reduced productivity, heightened risk of errors and user dissatisfaction all become potential pitfalls that can threaten the longevity and competitiveness of software projects.

The following is a simple example illustrating how tech debt can occur, and the challenges it can create:

A development team faces a tight client deadline for completing an app project. Rather than request a deadline extension, the team works towards completing the project as quickly as possible, which ultimately requires them to take a few coding and testing shortcuts.

While these shortcuts enable the team meet their deadline, they also lead to a convoluted codebase and several bugs that are quickly discovered through an influx of negative user feedback. Unfortunately, fixing these issues requires an additional developer to decipher and repair the confusing codebase, ultimately delaying the release of an important new product feature.

* Not sure if you're in Tech Debt? Our Free Tech Debt Checklist can help!

The Impact of Tech Debt

While design and development shortcuts might seem like a quick fix for meeting tight deadlines, it’s crucial to understand the negative impact it can have on your development journey and your end*-*user’s experience.

For instance, coding shortcuts used to meet a tight deadline often result in complex and convoluted codebases. While these codebases may work in the short term, they often present substantial challenges down the line, forcing developers to decipher their complexity in order to implement any new features. This, in turn stifles innovation, leaving the team with far less capacity for exploring new ideas, building new features and adapting to evolving market trends and technological advancements.

It’s important to understand that, as time progresses and the codebase grows, technical debt tends to worsen and become more apparent. Because tech debt accumulates interest over time, each new feature added or modification made without addressing underlying issues further compounds the debt - and the effort required to repay this debt grows exponentially, often surpassing the initial time saved by taking shortcuts.

Strategies for Managing Technical Debt

For all the reasons listed above, managing technical debt is a critical aspect of the software development process. At Yeti, we have a comprehensive approach to managing technical debt, throughout the software development lifecycle. If you'd like a primer covering all the strategies and best practices you can use to manage tech debt, don't miss our free guide!

Agile Development Practices:

At Yeti, we employ Agile methodologies to oversee all our software projects. The Agile process is an iterative development cycle, which means that we operate within two-week sprint cycles, completing, testing, and receiving feedback on each piece of work before proceeding to the next. This structured approach inherently minimizes the accumulation of technical debt, ensuring that our codebase remains clean, maintainable, and aligned with project goals.

Continuous Integration and Deployment:

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD) practices automate the process of combining code changes and putting them into action in live environments,  allowing for quicker feedback loops and a lower chances of accruing technical debt. By catching integration problems early on and delivering smaller changes that are easier to handle, CI/CD pipelines help keep the code in good shape and prevent debt from piling up.

Code Reviews

Code reviews involve team members examining each other's code before it's integrated into the project. This process encourages sharing knowledge, enhancing code quality, and spotting potential technical debt at an early stage. By tapping into the collective expertise of the team, code reviews act as a barrier against less-than-optimal coding practices and help maintain clean, maintainable codebases that adhere to established coding standards.

Automated Testing:

Automated testing involves having a program check your code to ensure it’s working correctly before deployment. Unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests detect mistakes and ensure that any new changes won’t break anything that was previously working. These tests give quick feedback on any changes made to the code, confirm that the software behaves as expected, and make sure it's reliable and stable. This helps prevent bugs that can cause technical debt, saving time and effort in the long run.

Scheduled Refactoring:

Scheduled refactoring sessions are regular opportunities for the development team to tidy up their code and fix any issues that have built up over time. This allows them to proactively address any accumulated technical debt by systematically improving code, enhancing the systems design, and eliminating any bugs.

Technical Debt Backlog

A technical debt backlog serves as a prioritized to-do list for developers, focusing on cataloging and ranking debt-related issues. By transparently documenting and prioritizing these issues, the development team can systematically integrate the most critical ones into their regular task list, ensuring that technical debt receives the necessary attention and resources for resolution.

Regular Assessments:

It is crucial for development teams to conduct regular tech debt assessments, such as code quality analyses, architectural reviews, or performance audits. This allows the team to identify and quantify existing debt within the codebase and make informed decisions about prioritizing those fixes.

Communication and Collaboration:

Effective communication and collaboration among team members and clients are essential for managing tech debt successfully. At Yeti, we foster a culture of transparency, openness, and shared responsibility that allows us collectively identify, prioritize, and address technical debt, and ensure that it remains a visible and actionable aspect of our development process.

Navigating the app development landscape is fraught with challenges, but perhaps none as insidious as technical debt. While the allure of meeting deadlines and delivering features promptly may seem enticing, the long-term repercussions of accumulated debt can be severe. From increased maintenance costs to diminished user experiences, the consequences of technical debt are far-reaching and can undermine the very foundation of your software projects.

At  Yeti, we recognize the importance of managing technical debt effectively, and we're committed to partnering with you every step of the way. If you’re beginning your product development journey, and would like to speak with an experienced IoT software development company, feel free to send us a message -we’d love to chat!

If you'd like a comprehensive guide to understanding and managing tech debt
, be sure to download our free guidebook!

Summer is Yeti's Marketing Manager. When not working, you can find her searching for thrift store treasure, hiking in the Sierra Nevadas, camping in her vintage camper, cooking vegan treats and reading anything she can get her hands on. Summer lives surrounded by wilderness in the remote mountains of California.

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