What is Technical Debt?

Debt is something acquired over time, in every industry--and the software industry is no exception. Sometimes when a deadline is coming up in a software project, development can be rushed. As a result, necessary work gets delayed in order to hit a deliverable. The repercussion of skipping the necessary work is technical debt.

As an example, technical debt can refer to the presence of old or inefficient systems in the operating environment of a company. These old systems not only slow things down, but can also cause more time attributed towards changes in the system. If the old systems continue to accumulate, they’re essentially taking up space, and companies end up paying double for code they’re not even utilizing.

Similar to financial debt, technical debt needs to get paid off or it can inevitably get worse as time goes on.

But what is technical debt in the IT world?

In this blog, technical debt will be explained, how it affects a technical department will be outlined, and you will learn why you should lower technical debt and the ways in which EdgeReady Cloud can help to lower technical debt for your company.

Technical Debt

Technical debt is a concept in software development that recognizes the cost of rework as a result of speeding up the delivery of a project to meet deadlines. The concept acknowledges sacrificing clean, flawless products for completed products, meeting short deadline requirements for product delivery. 

The term was first coined in the early 1990s by a software developer named Ward Cunningham, who was one of the founders of Agile programming. Cunningham first developed the term when emphasizing why resources should be allocated to development work that results from code that’s implemented in a rapid fashion.

As an example, imagine you’re a software developer and you’re working on a new application, but have just been told that the deadline to bring the product to market has moved up a week. You have two options:

  • The easier path: compose messier code or design that will allow you to finish faster, meeting the deadline
  • The harder path: compose cleaner code or design that will be more tedious.

In most cases, the former is chosen instead of the latter. The result? Technical debt. Just like someone might take out a loan on a property in the real estate market, in order to not get priced out, technical debt is utilized as a tool to get ahead--and fast. But what are some consequences that arise because of this?

Issues Caused By Technical Debt Along the Supply Chain

If a house is built on a weak or poorly made foundation, the consequences overtime can be staggering for the homeowner. Time and resources will need to be spent towards repair costs on the quickly made, weak foundation, which causes a hefty accumulation of debt. Similarly to a weak foundation, quickly built design or code can result in technical debt. 

This notion of debt is mirrored in the experience of software developers working to build resilient supply chains. Historically, in an effort to stay innovative and offer immediate changes to supply chain functions, developers either adopt new technologies or quickly build out processes. This strategy causes more technical debt overtime, versus investing in sound systems from the start. But what are some tangible examples of issues caused by this decision?

  • Spending time maintaining existing software, that could be spent elsewhere
  • Structural inconsistencies in the software
  • Rework from inefficiencies
  • Outdated customizations

According to Symphony Retail, this accumulation of issues overtime is relevant in the supply chain because only 36% of supply-chain professionals confirm their organization operates on a single supply-chain platform. In other words, the adoption of new technologies is common when trying to correct or innovate processes in the moment. This naturally leads to more maintenance in the long run.

Most of the time, the reason organizations along the supply-chain accumulate debt so easily is due to the speed at which these companies acquire, deploy, and customize new technologies across the operation. In today’s modern technological age, companies are working hard to update their manual workflows but the consequence is technical debt.

Why Reduce Technical Debt

Now that issues of technical debt within the supply chain have been emphasized, it’s also important to shift perspective into why reducing technical debt is necessary for any software team.

Below are some reasons you should lower technical debt:

    • Interest: Similar to financial debt, technical debt can acquire interest. The interest references the increasing difficulty it can be to correct changes to code or design later on, especially when a software project goes through multiple changes over time. The longer technical debt is ignored, the more software decline can occur.

    • Decreased Agility: Overtime, the normal processes of an application or piece of software can slow down as a project matures. This leads to less agile software.
    • Weaker Software: Ignoring technical debt can affect the performance of your software, such as potential outages or security issues.
    • Financial Losses: If your software isn’t working properly, less customers will stay faithful to your product. As a result, technical debt can result in financial losses for your company.

After acknowledging the different reasons to lower technical debt, what are some options out there to assist you in the reduction process?

How to Reduce Technical Debt with NANCI and EdgeReady Cloud

Pillir has a few options to help you reduce the amount of technical debt your software may be facing.

NANCI, Pillir’s ABAP analyzation tool, allows you to discover technical debt in minutes. Additionally, it reveals ABAP customizations and shows total cost of ownership (TCO) and rate of change. Using the power of EdgeReady Cloud, NANCI makes discovering and reducing technical debt cost effective and more transparent than ever before.

EdgeReady Cloud is also a great tool to support reduction of technical debt. Providing the ability to create applications rapidly with little-to-no coding, this low-code solution not only increases speed-to-market, but also helps to minimize the amount of time it takes to create a functioning application. No longer will your software team have to choose completion over quality. The result: less technical debt.

Learn how to lower your technical debt and identify ways to enhance your speed to market. Receive a free download of North American's #1 TCO Analyzer and ABAP Discovery app, NANCI. 

Cecilia Santis

Cecilia Santis

Cecilia is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Pillir and loves to write about emerging technologies.