Understanding Technical Debt: Cutting Corners That Can Cost You Later

Understanding Technical Debt: Cutting Corners That Can Cost You Later

Understanding Technical Debt: Cutting Corners That Can Cost You Later

Cloud technologies are known to offer many benefits, but it’s safe to say that two words dominate expectations when it comes to development cycles: faster and nimbler. As more organizations implement agile development, it’s becoming clear that expedited time to market is an expected standard – and so is the speedy development that goes along with it.

As fast turnarounds and flexible production become a baseline of cloud development, so does the necessity for developers to fix, tweak, change and adapt as they go. On a sprint, it’s tempting to prioritize speed over completion, especially when a deadline for an impatient client is drawing closer. As a result, some developers are tempted to rush and cut corners in an effort to meet the delivery deadlines. Because of this, many in our field are becoming familiar with the term “technical debt.”

The danger, of course, is that even though those shortcuts can seem like an efficient way to achieve speed to market, they can damage teams in other ways. For instance, last year when LinkedIn suffered a hack and millions of email addresses were stolen, the company was harshly accused of cutting corners, which led to the vulnerability. Whether they did or did not is still debatable, however the cost to the brand and revenue were apparent from the mere idea that the company scrimped when it came to coding.

Every organization that’s using agile should be well aware that sometimes cutting corners can turn into technical debt that will cost your organization later – and can ultimately cause deadlines to be missed, sabotaging the same cycle time you were trying to protect.

Managing technical debt

Many developers make the mistake of thinking they know what corners they can cut without sacrificing quality. But as development evolves and uncompleted changes and abandoned directions pile up, the team can find themselves staring at a serious technical debt that must be paid.

The causes of debt are fairly common. The pressure to release a product prematurely, a lack of collaboration and knowledge-sharing, or a lack of thoughtful testing or code review and key documentation, are just a few dynamics that can lead to a significant amount of debt. So how do you keep this from happening to your team?

One tip to keep in mind is resolving issues as soon as they appear instead of putting them on a back burner. The earlier the stage of detection, the less expensive those issues will be to fix. Issues left unresolved, on the other hand, will expand into a technical debt that will eventually demand more time and money in eliminating. As one example, consider legacy code where the software engineers spend so much effort in keeping the system running, thereby supporting the debt that there’s not enough time to add new features to the product without additional expense.

cut-costs-cloud

Common shortcuts – and their costs

When work cycles are on the line, developers tend to cut some of the same corners over and over. A good example is Quality Assurance work, such as code reviews, unit testing, integration tests and system tests. Many developers feel comfortable skipping tasks here for one simple reason. Because this is work undertaken to validate the code, rather than actually writing the code (other than corrections found by the QA activities), they assume it can be eliminated with minimal risk.

The truth is that cutting corners here can mean sacrificing knowledge and productivity. While it might not be immediately apparent, the overall productivity of the team tends to be higher during a lot of these activities since they increase interactive learning within the team, which in turn leads to higher levels of output.

One way to protect this valuable phase is to implement processes that are used as a check list among every development cycle. In my company, we call this Tiempo Quality System (TQS), a defined set of best practices and processes that standardizes the engineering process. By using a configurator that ensures best practice QA activities are defined up front, TQS minimizes overhead while maximizing overall team productivity. Similar systems can easily be implemented among any development team and are a great way to eliminate technical debt.

Managing quick cycles without cutting corners

All of this might sound as if agile developers need to choose between delivering on fast-paced cycles or executing on solid development. Rest assured, both are possible.

One solution is tracking velocity to produce data that shows the production delays resulting from a backlog of coding issues. By demonstrating the exact fault lines that jeopardize product quality, developers can head off debt at the start. Things like Code Reviews should be looked at not merely as QA activities, but as opportunities for the team to learn together, create improvements on producing the code and work towards optimization.

The shortcuts worth taking

Developers must accept that the pressure to cut corners will never go away. So is it taking a shortcut ever acceptable? Under some circumstances, yes. One category that qualifies would be issues that aren’t showstoppers when working on release or deadline driven products. In this situation, rather than delaying time to market, refactoring can and should be implemented after meeting the deadline.

Predictable release schedules, deadline adherence, and expedited development cycles are good things and should always be prioritized in intelligent cloud development. At the same time, it’s critical to adopt a long view and not sacrifice quality in the pursuit of speed. Manage your technical debt during development and you’ll find it that much easier to deliver a high-performing product – on deadline.

By Bruce Steele

Bruce Steele is the COO of Tiempo Development. He drives Tiempo’s software engineering, professional services, consulting and customer support initiatives. Mr. Steele is a seasoned executive with over 25 years of management experience in the areas of operations, corporate development, sales and strategic planning with leading technology firms. He can be reached at bsteele@tiempodevelopment.com.

About CloudTweaks

Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading authorities in connected technology information and services.

We embrace and instill thought leadership insights, relevant and timely news related stories, unbiased benchmark reporting as well as offer green/cleantech learning and consultive services around the world.

Our vision is to create awareness and to help find innovative ways to connect our planet in a positive eco-friendly manner.

In the meantime, you may connect with CloudTweaks by following and sharing our resources.

View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Personal Account of Google CEO Compromised

Personal Account of Google CEO Compromised

Personal Account Compromised The security of our information online, whether it’s our banking details, emails or personal information, is important. Hackers pose a very real threat to our privacy when there are vulnerabilities in the security of the services we use online. It can be worrying then when the CEO of perhaps the largest holder…

How You Can Improve Customer Experience With Fast Data Analytics

How You Can Improve Customer Experience With Fast Data Analytics

Fast Data Analytics In today’s constantly connected world, customers expect more than ever before from the companies they do business with. With the emergence of big data, businesses have been able to better meet and exceed customer expectations thanks to analytics and data science. However, the role of data in your business’ success doesn’t end…

Data Protection and Session Fixation Attacks

Data Protection and Session Fixation Attacks

Keeping the man out of the middle: preventing session fixation attacks In a nutshell, session fixation is a type of man in the middle attack where an attacker is able to pretend to be a victim using a session variable. For instance, let’s say you have an application that uses sessions to validate the user.…

E-Commerce Advances For Savvy Marketers

E-Commerce Advances For Savvy Marketers

Digital Marketing Platforms Advertising and marketing techniques have progressed rapidly in the last decade with both channel focus and the direction of content shifting considerably due primarily to advances in cloud technology. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce 2016 singles out a few ecommerce providers who are topping their sector in both ability to execute…

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Energy Battle

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Energy Battle

By David Fletcher Please feel free to share our comics via social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest. Clear attribution (Twitter example: via@cloudtweaks) to our original comic sources is greatly appreciated.

Recent Articles - Posted by
The Questions of Privacy In The Internet of Things Revolution

The Questions of Privacy In The Internet of Things Revolution

Privacy in the Internet of Things Revolution The Internet of Things (IoT) has been promising a lot to consumers for a few years and now we’re really starting to see some of the big ideas come to fruition, which means an ever-growing conversation around data security and privacy. Big data comes with big responsibilities and…

Three Factors for Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Three Factors for Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy A few weeks ago I visited the global headquarters of a large multi-national company to discuss cloud strategy with the CIO. I arrived 30 minutes early and took a tour of the area where the marketing team showcased their award winning brands. I was impressed by the digital marketing strategy…

Why Cloud Compliance Doesn’t Need To Be So Overly Complicated

Why Cloud Compliance Doesn’t Need To Be So Overly Complicated

Cloud Compliance  Regulatory compliance is an issue that has not only weighed heavily on the minds of executives, security and audit teams, but also today, even end users. Public cloud adds more complexity when varying degrees of infrastructure (depending on the cloud model) and data fall out of the hands of the company and into…

Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

Digital Marketing Trends In the past, trends in the exceptionally fast-paced digital marketing arena have been quickly adopted or abandoned, keeping marketers and consumers on their toes. 2016 promises a similarly expeditious temperament, with a few new digital marketing offerings taking center stage. According to Gartner’s recent research into Digital Marketing Hubs, brands plan to…

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

How to Identify and Authenticate in the Expanding IoT Ecosystem It is a necessity to protect IoT devices and their associated data. As the IoT ecosystem continues to expand, the need to create an identity to newly-connected things is becoming increasingly crucial. These ‘things’ can include anything from basic sensors and gateways to industrial controls…

Cloud Infographic – Big Data Analytics Trends

Cloud Infographic – Big Data Analytics Trends

Big Data Analytics Trends As data information and cloud computing continues to work together, the need for data analytics continues to grow. Many tech firms predict that big data volume will grow steadily 40% per year and in 2020, will grow up to 50 times that. This growth will also bring a number of cost…

Cloud Security: The Top 8 Risks According To ENISA

Cloud Security: The Top 8 Risks According To ENISA

Cloud Security Risks Does security in the cloud ever bother you? It would be weird if it didn’t. Cloud computing has a lot of benefits, but also a lot of risks if done in the wrong way. So what are the most important risks? The European Network Information Security Agency did extensive research on that,…