How much is Technical Debt costing your organization?

How much is Technical Debt costing your organization?

By: Erik Birkfeld

March 8, 2021

Technical Debt Cost

There is no such thing as perfect code. That’s because it’s designed by humans, often working in teams, so certain coding idiosyncrasies are built into any complete program. This might be because of coding shortcuts that get the job done for the initial program, or it could be because some programmers prefer a certain way of programming that works for them.

However, when you wish to add extra features to your program, these issues and idiosyncrasies can add up to extra time spent on programming those features. A development cycle that was initially shorter ends up taking more time overall because the code base isn’t efficient enough.

In essence, this is technical debt.

How long is a piece of string? If the workarounds or shortcuts used are particularly complicated, it can sometimes be quicker to undo work completed in the initial development cycle and then redo it. In extreme cases, it can be quicker to scrap the program and start over — and that can add days, weeks, or even months to your development cycle. This is the debt part of technical debt.

Technical debt costs money.

And the cost of fixing a bug after release can be four to five times greater than fixing it during the design phase.

We touch on a few reasons why it might happen above, but ultimately it’s often down to trying to get software out as quickly as possible and not necessarily taking into account future development cycles. It can push the cost of development down initially, ensuring that budgets are kept to. Then the future cost is pushed onto either a different budget, to a different department, or a different quarter. It might also be that the team is trying to make a deliverable for a liquidity event or even just to meet a deadline for a customer and where future updates can be met on a more leisurely timescale. It can also be down to an inefficient development cycle.

In a few cases, it may be down to outdated design, often because the software market is moving at such a rapid pace that it is quite hard to keep up. However, you don’t want to over-engineer a product because that also costs time.

In many teams, technical debt can be repaid fairly quickly, with coding shortcuts (assuming they are properly documented) corrected, duplication removed, bugs squished, code smells chased up, and deeper problems eliminated. However, it’s worth remembering that it takes the average engineer 13 hours to find and eliminate a single bug. If you have multiple bugs, that time cost increases dramatically.

The Cost of Technical Debt

Reducing technical debt can be tricky to do in isolation, as it is usually the result of process issues, budget issues, and time issues. However, by overhauling the process, it’s possible to reduce technical debt costs significantly.

In 2002, the cost of fixing bugs was a third of total software sales, at $60 billion a year.

This is where you need to trade in your delivery cycle and adopt DevOps. This process lets you streamline your software delivery life-cycle and deliver better software faster. It reduces the strain on your bottom line even when you need to add new features later, and it helps you get the most out of your teams.

Sonatafy offers a unique insight into your codebase so that you can understand the strength and quality of the code, the contributions that your team is making, and the amount of technical debt that you incur. This allows you to spin up maintenance teams to tackle areas off the critical path that might need to be cleaned up or set in place other processes that mitigate technical debt costs.

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