How Does Technical Debt Impact Your Business?

Web Development Team

Changes in web programming happen quickly. And with these changes, technical debt can occur.

Technical debt cannot be overlooked when considering the success of your brand’s website programming strategy. Or your day-to-day business operations and planning.

It is crucial to stay on top of any debt to ensure you are promoting industry best practices and preventing costly mistakes and unintended consequences down the line.

What is technical debt?

Technical debt is a term used to reflect the added costs of extra development work that results from the unintended consequences of implementing quick fixes rather than planning out how to implement the best overall solution.

This term was first coined as a metaphor that equates software development to financial debt. It represents a situation or project that has two potential solutions.

The first option is quick and easy but will require future changes and may result in unintended consequences. The second solution has a better design and tries to consider all facets and pieces it will impact. But it will take more time to implement.

In development, releasing the quick and easy approach mirrors incurring debt. For technical debt, ‘interest’ comes in the form of added programming work in the future.

Taking the time to program the second solution, one with better design, is equivalent to paying down principal. While it takes more work up front, it also decreases future interest payments.

As quick fixes and custom short term solutions accumulate, it becomes harder to make future large scale improvements and changes. This is because you have to work around or update all of the custom solutions previously implemented.

Putting in the initial work to document changes, test the changes to the code bases, and properly assess the impact of your changes helps prevent the accumulation of technical debt further down the road.

What are some types of technical debt?

Technical debt can be classified in one of three ways. These include naïve technical debt, unavoidable technical debt and strategic technical debt.

Naïve technical debt occurs when best practice is not followed due to being unaware of the best design, naming convention, documentation guidelines or coding guidelines.

Unavoidable technical debt is usually unpredictable and unpreventable. It happens through no fault of the team building the product.

An example of this is when upgrades in development tools bring newer and often better ways to maintain custom solutions. It could also occur if one of your programmers moves on from the organization, leaving behind code with minimal documentation.

The third and final type of technical debt, strategic, is one that is knowingly incurred. This debt involves conscious, proactive decisions with short term benefits. And they often come down to time sensitivity.

Is technical debt always a bad thing?
Despite the term containing the word ‘debt’, it is not always a negative thing. At times, a quick solution can mean a sooner launch date, which can benefit business.

In addition, technical debt is not just poor code. Bad code is simply that, and technical debt can result from the work of high level programmers under difficult project timelines or constraints.

How can you handle technical debt?

Although technical debt is not always negative, it is important to handle the debt to ensure a successful programming strategy.
To avoid technical debt altogether, follow best practices and standards, whether it is industry standard features, frameworks or technologies.
It also important to clearly define requirements up front. Map out development needs or wire frame before design takes places rather than trying to rework code and design later in the process. 

While some technical debt is unavoidable, its effects can be minimized by creating as much supporting documentation as possible and sharing knowledge with other team members in the organization.
Also, try to avoid last minute changes.  Last minute modifications due to lack of time or budget create issues. Proper documentation and checks take time.
Projects evolve and requirements change, so code can become inefficient or difficult to manipulate.  Identify these issues and refactor them to support future requirements. The longer programmers put this off, the more code gets added, and the more difficult it becomes to change.


For computer programmers, there is always room to grow, learn and improve. Anticipating changes and keeping up to date on the latest web trends are specialities of our talented KennedyC web team.
Give us a call or contact us to learn more.