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Technical debt: What is it and how OutSystems can manage it?

technical debt

Although a well-known term in the corridors of the digital world, the rise and impact of technical debt were never expected to be this huge.

According to a survey, 91% of organizations struggle with it. In fact, 40% of the survey participants report that technical debt harms their delivery quality.

But before we discuss technical debt management, we need to understand where it stems from.

In this article, we plan on doing exactly that.

So, stay with us as we decode the meaning, cause, impact, and ways to manage it with OutSystems.

What is technical debt?

what is technical debt

Technical debt is exactly what the name suggests – some tasks you ignore or save for later so that you can first finish what is more urgent.

Let us explain with a few technical debt examples –

How many times has your team made an application go live while your backlog had many tasks pending?

Haven’t you ever gone easy with testing because the deadline is around the corner?

More often than not, the answer to the above questions is a “yes”.

In the race of meeting customer expectations and market trends, an organization ends up making short-term decisions to ensure speedy delivery.

While it helps in maintaining business agility,  it also leads to potential opportunity costs, heavy maintenance, constant rework, and performance issues.

To put it in simple words, it is the price you have to pay to keep up with evolving demands, meeting timelines, and appropriating resources.

Let’s face it – some technical debt is unavoidable and is a part of the software development process.

Is technical debt bad?

In fact, we often find ourselves wondering – is it an actual threat, or are we overestimating it?

The answer to this question lies in the amount of technical debt accumulated in your business. As long as it is manageable, it works well with the tandem of meeting business needs.

But the problem arises when it reaches a point where it starts to take up a major chunk of your time, resources, and efforts.

Technical Debt

According to a report by OutSystems, technical debt will cost around $5 trillion in the next decade. Clearly, it is turning out to be more serious than organisations had anticipated.

Due to its implications, organisations are forced to utilize their critical resources for managing technical debt instead of focusing on innovation and expansion.

Basically, your team spends more time on maintenance and correction. In its absence, the same team could be analyzing competitors, spending more time on innovation, and learning about new developments.

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Businesses devote 78% of their IT budgets to managing technical debts.

Wondering what it could mean for your business?

So, the need of the hour is to figure out ways to reduce this scenario. But before we get there, let’s find out what are the different types of technical debt.

What are the types of technical debt?

The best way to understand various types of technical debt is by analyzing the “Technical Debt Quadrant” given by Martin Fowler. Let us explain it to you –

types of technical debt

  • Deliberate and reckless: This particular situation occurs when the software development team is aware of the loopholes but focuses more on speedy delivery than on organized code. 
  • Deliberate and prudent: This generally refers to those times when the debt is small and less impactful; thus, the team decides to prioritize delivery and deal with the consequences later. 
  • Inadvertent and reckless: A classic case of inexperience and lack of expertise – this is the debt you may accrue if your team lacks knowledge and have no idea they are committing mistakes. 
  • Inadvertent and prudent: A lesson learned but a tad bit late. This case is when your team realizes the mistakes but after the delivery.

Here are two things that we learn from this quadrant:

  • Reckless technical debt needs to be avoided at all costs. 
  • While the prudent part looks friendly and manageable, it is still important to keep measuring technical debt of this kind and keep it under control.

Now that we know more about how technical debt accrues, we must also delve deeper into what causes it.

In the next section, we explore what loopholes result in technical debt in an organization.

What are the causes of technical debt?

Time constraint: We all know that our teams have immense pressure to reduce time to market. Usually, they end up avoiding a few critical steps and accrue technical debt consciously to make it to the clients’ timeline.

Changing demands: A project starts with certain requirements and specifications. But in today’s scenario, they keep evolving with changing trends and customer needs. After a point, it becomes difficult to keep bug-free; as a result, technical debt accumulates.

Complex code: Software development is not a cakewalk! On top of it, technologies become obsolete quicker than ever nowadays. The usage of complex code with several languages is a definite step towards accruing technical debt involuntarily.

When we analyze these causes, it seems like technical debt starts to emerge when we are neck-deep into a project.

Although the truth is far from the reality!

The moment you agree on a project with a tight deadline, you subconsciously choose to ignore a few non-essential steps to deliver it on time.

But the real question is – do you ever get time to look back and pay back the debt you had accrued?

There’s always a new project, more essential tasks, and perhaps another deadline to meet. And whether you take it seriously or not, technical debt does return to haunt you!

How consumer demands accrue debt?

What happened during the pandemic is a classic example of technical debt savagery.

A lot of eCommerce companies did not take into account peak traffic while building them. Of course, they had never expected the world to go into a lockdown and rely on online retail for all its needs!

As a result, a lot of major eCommerce brands crashed under pressure. While those companies that built a scalable platform, like Amazon, eBay, cashed in to the opportunity.

Their single decision of not postponing critical development steps saved them from any debt and helped them thrive during difficult times.

But this is easier said than done!

Living up to customer expectations and dealing with technical debt is often more complicated than expected.

This is where OutSystems plays a major role.

With its low-code capabilities, it brings up an alternative to traditional software development practices. Let’s find out how it can help reduce technical debt.

How to handle technical debt with OutSystems?

Model-driven development: OutSystems is a model-based development tool that requires minimal coding.

Thanks to visually-driven design modules and preempted templates, it manages to deliver mission-critical projects on time without any complex code.

As a result, there’s less chance of missing steps, committing errors or bugs in the codes.

Accelerated development time: One of the main reasons why project managers keep a few technical tasks on the backburner is the lack of time.

OutSystems addresses this problem from its root cause. Studies have shown that low-code has the power to reduce development time by 90%.

By leveraging OutSystems, your team can manage to deliver projects on time (sometimes even before it) without compromising on the features and performance.

Automated deployment process: Using a combination of AI and analytics, OutSystems takes care of the entire deployment process so that there are no architectural errors, faulty logic, or broken code.

Consequently, the deployment process doesn’t get completed unless it’s error-free and debt-less.

Connects business and IT teams: We are well aware that bringing technical and business teams on the same page is not easy.

And often, their difference of opinion ends up in lapses in codes and the deployment process.

However, OutSystems turns this entire scenario around. It has proven to be revolutionary in terms of allowing business users entry to development practices.

As they are involved in the development process, there are lesser demands of unexpected changes and more understanding of technological constraints.

Finally, it becomes a win-win situation for both sides. It allows business users to respond to market trends and allows core developers to focus on more critical tasks.

Not to forget, a relaxed, collaborative approach also leaves a little room for any kind of debt to accumulate.

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OutSystems handle technical debt with proven methods and tips.

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Final take:

We can’t ignore that rapid development is essential to survive in today’s competitive market. If an organization keeps relying on traditional development technologies, they’re doomed to break at some point or the other.

OutSystems is a breath of fresh air when it comes to tying high-end performance and less complexity in one thread.

It also makes for an ideal technical debt strategy that not only helps in measuring technical debt but managing it too!

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