Overcoming Common Technical Debt Pitfalls as a High-Growth Startup
Technical debt is a common problem that arises from taking shortcuts in software development. It’s a concept that refers to the additional work that arises from taking a shortcut in development, which can lead to significant problems down the road if not managed properly. Technical debt can accumulate over time and lead to slow development, increased time required to fix bugs, and harm to the overall health of the product. To gain insights into overcoming common technical debt pitfalls, we sat down with George Ionita, a highly experienced Engineering Advisor from Sand Technologies.
The FutureList: Can you please explain what technical debt is and why it’s important for high-growth startups to be aware of?
George: Technical debt is the cost of the additional work that arises from taking a shortcut in development. It often happens when developers take shortcuts to meet a deadline or to quickly implement a new feature, instead of following the best practices and standards. Technical debt can result in code that is difficult to maintain, scale, and test. Over time, technical debt accumulates and can slow down development, increase the time required to fix bugs, and even lead to product failure. Therefore, it is critical for high-growth startups to be aware of technical debt and manage it properly.
The FutureList: What are some common technical debt pitfalls that startups should watch out for?
George: One common pitfall is “hacking” code together to get a feature out quickly, without considering how it will affect the codebase in the long run. This can lead to inconsistent, poorly written code that is difficult to maintain and scale. Another pitfall is not following coding standards or best practices, which can further worsen the quality of the codebase. Additionally, not allocating enough time and resources to properly address technical debt can also lead to problems down the road.
The FutureList: How can startups overcome technical debt and prevent it from becoming a larger problem?
George: Startups can overcome technical debt by prioritising it alongside new feature development and allocating resources to address it. This means that developers should follow coding standards and best practices, perform regular code reviews, and refactor code as needed to keep the codebase clean and maintainable. Startups can also invest in automated testing and continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipelines, which can catch issues early on and prevent technical debt from accumulating.
Another way to overcome technical debt is to create a technical debt backlog, where developers can prioritise and track technical debt issues. This can help startups better understand the scope of the technical debt problem and allocate resources accordingly. Additionally, startups can allocate a portion of their development time to refactoring and cleaning up the codebase. By doing so, startups can break down technical debt into smaller, manageable chunks that can be gradually addressed over time.
The FutureList: How can startups strike a balance between moving quickly and managing technical debt?
George: Striking a balance between moving quickly and managing technical debt is a challenge for startups. However, it’s important to find the right balance to ensure that the product remains competitive and maintainable. One approach is to set development goals and timelines and regularly assess progress against those goals. This can help teams stay focused on the most important tasks at hand, while also managing technical debt. Another approach is to prioritize technical debt alongside new feature development and allocate resources accordingly.
Startups can also use agile software development methodologies, which emphasise iterative development and continuous feedback. This can help startups move quickly while also addressing technical debt in small, manageable chunks. By using agile methodologies, startups can break down development into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be more easily managed and maintained.
The FutureList: Can you give us some practical examples of how startups can manage technical debt?
George: Sure, there are many practical examples of how startups can manage technical debt. One example is to use code analysis tools to catch issues early on in the development process. These tools can help identify potential technical debt issues and recommend solutions for addressing them. Another example is to create a technical debt backlog, where developers can prioritise and track technical debt issues.
Startups can also invest in automated testing and CI/CD pipelines, which can catch issues early on and prevent technical debt from accumulating. This involves setting up automated tests that run every time code is checked in, as well as automated deployment pipelines that ensure that code is deployed in a consistent, reliable manner. Additionally, startups can allocate a portion of their development time to refactoring and cleaning up the codebase. By doing so, startups can gradually address technical debt over time and maintain a healthy codebase.
The FutureList: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share on technical debt for high-growth startups?
George: It’s important for startups to understand that technical debt is an inevitable part of software development, but it can be managed properly with the right processes and tools in place. By prioritising technical debt alongside new feature development and allocating resources to manage it, startups can ensure that their products remain competitive and maintainable over the long term. It’s important to remember that technical debt can accumulate quickly and lead to significant problems down the road if not managed properly.
Need guidance on how to best preempt or overcome technical debt? Get in touch with the team at Sand Technologies to see if you qualify for a complimentary tech scalability assessment from one of their internal experts.