What is Technical Debt in Software Development - How to Identify & Manage?

Posted by Uzma Faiz · 09 Mar, 2023 · 8 Min read
What is Technical Debt in Software Development - How to Identify & Manage?

Imagine that you are a business owner who has put a lot of time and money into making a software product. But as time passes, you notice that your product is getting a slower response and is harder to keep up with.

You realize that your team has accumulated a lot of technical debt that could hurt the success of your project. But, don't worry. In this article, we'll talk about technical debt, ways to identify it, and to deal with it.

What is Technical Debt in Software Development?

Technical debt in software development is the cost of maintaining and supporting software systems that weren't built in the best or most efficient way. It happens when developers rush to meet deadlines, take shortcuts, or don't test the software enough before putting it out into the world.

In simple terms, "technical debt" is the sum of all small technical issues that aren't fixed during the development process. Over time, these problems can add up and cause big problems, leading to higher costs and longer project delivery times.

Definition of Technical Debt

Technical debt is a metaphor for how much it costs to keep software systems running that were not built in the best way possible. The word "debt" is used because these problems build up over time and have to be fixed at some point, just like financial debt has to be paid back.

Types of Technical Debt

There are several types of technical debt in software development, including:

1. Design Debt

This kind of technical debt happens when software designers try to save time by taking shortcuts. For example, if a developer is in a hurry, they might choose to skip important design steps, which would lead to a poorly designed system. Over time, this can lead to a complicated system that is hard to keep up with.

2. Code Debt

Code debt happens when a developer makes a code structure or architecture that isn't as good as it could be. This could happen if the programmer is in a hurry or if they don't have enough experience. Because of this, the code may be hard to maintain, hard to read, and have dependencies that aren't needed.

3. Documentation Debt

When a developer doesn't document the code, which can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, this is called "documentation debt." Miscommunication and mistakes can also happen when documentation is not complete or is out of date.

4. Testing Debt

When software isn't tested enough or isn't tested at all, this is called "testing debt." This can lead to bugs, errors, and other problems that can be expensive to fix later.

5. Tooling Debt

When a development team uses tools or environments that are too old or not good enough, this is called "tooling debt." This can slow down development and make the code harder to keep up-to-date.

Also, Read: Software Quality Metrics and KPIs: Choose the Right Metrics

How to Identify Technical Debt in Software Development?

Technical debt can be hard to spot because many problems don't show up right away. But some common signs can show you have technical debt, such as:

1. Bugs and Issues

Numerous bugs and problems with software could be a sign of technical debt. This is especially true if the bugs and problems are hard to fix or keep happening over and over again.

2. Slow Performance

If your software is slow or doesn't work as it should, this could be a sign of technical debt. This can happen due to bad code, shoddy systems, or old infrastructure.

3. Difficulty in Making Changes

If making changes to your software is hard, this could be a sign of technical debt. This can happen if the code isn't organized well, there isn't enough documentation, or the infrastructure is old.

4. High Maintenance Costs

If it costs a lot to keep your software up-to-date, that could be a sign of technical debt. This can happen because of bad code, badly made systems, or old infrastructure.

Here are some methods to identify technical debt in software development:

1. Code Review

Code review is the process by which developers check the code of their peers to make sure it meets the organization's standards. During this process, they can look for code that is poorly written, hard to understand, or doesn't contain any documentation. This can help them find possible technical debt.

2. Automated Code Analysis

Developers can find technical debt in their code with the help of tools that analyze code automatically. These tools can look through the codebase to find problems like code smells, duplicate code, and libraries that are too old.

3. Technical Debt Backlog

A technical debt backlog is a list of things that need to be done to fix the technical debt. When developers find technical debt during code review or automated code analysis, they can add items to this list.

4. User Feedback

User feedback can help find bugs, usability problems, and performance problems stemming from technical debt. You can get this feedback from user testing, surveys, and analytics tools.

5. Performance Metrics

User feedback can help find bugs, usability problems, and performance problems arising from technical debt. You can get this feedback from user testing, surveys, and analytics tools.

By using these methods, developers can identify technical debt in their code and take steps to manage it effectively.

Also, Read: Why Quality Assurance (QA) For Startups Is Crucial

How to Manage Technical Debt in Software Development?

Managing technical debt in software development is important if you want your software systems to work well in the long run. Here are some ways to take care of technical debt well:

1. Prioritize Technical Debt

Not all types of technical debt are the same, and some may hurt the project or product more than others. By putting technical debt in order of severity and impact, teams can better decide how to use their resources.

2. Establish a Process for Managing Technical Debt

Having a plan for dealing with technical debt is important. This could involve regular code reviews, refactoring sprints, or other ways to deal with technical debt quickly.

3. Create a Technical Debt Backlog

Creating a technical debt backlog is similar to making a product backlog. It can help teams keep track of technical debt issues and decide how important they are.

4. Refactor Regularly

Refactoring is the process of making changes to code without changing its functioning. Refactoring code regularly can help teams smartly deal with technical debt.

5. Involve Stakeholders

Developers shouldn't be the only ones in charge of managing technical debt. Involve key players in the process, such as product owners, business analysts, and project managers, to make sure everyone understands how technical debt affects the project or product.

6. Use Agile Methodologies

Agile methods, like Scrum, are good for dealing with technical debt. With regular sprints and retrospectives, technical debt can be dealt with and improvements can be made quickly and well.

7. Invest in Training and Development

Developers who don't have the skills and knowledge to write good code are often to blame for technical debt. Putting money into training and development can help stop technical debt from ever happening.

Technical Debt in Agile

Agile software development methods like Scrum and Kanban that focus on iterative development, continuous improvement, and regular feedback can help deal with technical debt. Teams can find technical debt early and fix it quickly if they work in short sprints and deliver working software frequently.

In Agile, technical debt is seen as a normal part of the development process, and teams are encouraged to prioritize it and deal with it regularly. This keeps technical debt from piling up over time and getting out of hand.

Also, Read: How Agile and Outsourcing Can Be Better Together?


In conclusion, technical debt is an important concept in software development that affects how good software systems are as a whole. To make sure that software systems will work in the future, it is important to find and deal with technical debt. If you don't, it can lead to high maintenance costs, less work getting done, and bad user experiences.

Managing technical debt is more important than ever in the fast-paced software development industry of today. At SoluteLabs, we know how important it is to find and deal with technical debt to make sure that software systems work well in the long run. Our team of experienced developers uses best practices to help organizations build custom solutions that meet all their requirements in the most effective manner.

If you are looking for custom software development solutions, contact us today. We can help you come up with comprehensive solutions and make sure that your software systems will work in the long run.

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