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.

Comic
Martech In A Content Crazed World

Martech In A Content Crazed World

Content Crazed World Everywhere you look there are pop-up ads and offers, at times it can feel like overload. What used to be a few online ads on websites has now grown into a wild world of offers that consume your every device. These advancements in marketing technology can not only be overwhelming to the…

Hubgets – Advanced Collaboration, Enriched Communication

Hubgets – Advanced Collaboration, Enriched Communication

Advanced Collaboration Tool Sponsored series provided in collaboration with Hubgets Collaboration tools have advanced leaps and bounds with the advent of cloud technology, and the services available are only getting better. Promising features such as sophisticated group communication, productive management of tasks and meetings, and the ultimate dream, working remotely from some gorgeous island destination, innovative collaboration…

Verizon To Acquire Yahoo For $4.83 Billion

Verizon To Acquire Yahoo For $4.83 Billion

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) said it had agreed to buy Yahoo Inc’s (YHOO.O) core internet business for $4.83 billion in cash, ending a lengthy sale process for the fading Web pioneer. Buying Yahoo’s operations will boost Verizon’s AOL internet business, which it bought last year for $4.4 billion, by giving it access to Yahoo’s advertising…

When Sci-Fi Predictions Come To Fruition

When Sci-Fi Predictions Come To Fruition

Evolution of Technologies To paraphrase science fiction author Arthur C. Clark, those who make predictions about the future are either “considered conservative now and mocked later, or mocked now and proved right when they are no longer around to enjoy the acclaim.” The one thing we can be sure about, Clark ventured, is that “[the…

Facebook Hopes To Extend Internet Connectivity With Solar-Powered Drones

Facebook Hopes To Extend Internet Connectivity With Solar-Powered Drones

Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Thursday it had completed a successful test flight of a solar-powered drone that it hopes will help it extend internet connectivity to every corner of the planet. Aquila, Facebook’s lightweight, high-altitude aircraft, flew at a few thousand feet for 96 minutes in Yuma, Arizona, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in…

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

The True Meaning of Availability What is real availability? In our line of work, cloud service providers approach availability from the inside out. And in many cases, some never make it past their own front door given how challenging it is to keep the lights on at home let alone factors that are out of…

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…

Which Is Better For Your Company: Cloud-Based or On-Premise ERP Deployment?

Which Is Better For Your Company: Cloud-Based or On-Premise ERP Deployment?

Cloud-Based or On-Premise ERP Deployment? You know how enterprise resource management (ERP) can improve processes within your supply chain, and the things to keep in mind when implementing an ERP system. But do you know if cloud-based or on-premise ERP deployment is better for your company or industry? While cloud computing is becoming more and…

How Formal Verification Can Thwart Change-Induced Network Outages and Breaches

How Formal Verification Can Thwart Change-Induced Network Outages and Breaches

How Formal Verification Can Thwart  Breaches Formal verification is not a new concept. In a nutshell, the process uses sophisticated math to prove or disprove whether a system achieves its desired functional specifications. It is employed by organizations that build products that absolutely cannot fail. One of the reasons NASA rovers are still roaming Mars…

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And Virtual Reality This is a term I created (Virtual Immersion). Ah…the sweet smell of Virtual Immersion Success! Virtual Immersion© (VI) an extension/expansion of Virtual Reality to include the senses beyond visual and auditory. Years ago there was a television commercial for a bathing product called Calgon. The tagline of the commercial was Calgon…

Most Active Internet Of Things Investors In The Last 5 Years

Most Active Internet Of Things Investors In The Last 5 Years

Most Active Internet Of Things Investors A recent BI Intelligence report claimed that the Internet of Things (IoT) is on its way to becoming the largest device market in the world. Quite naturally, such exponential growth of the IoT market has prompted a number of high-profile corporate investors and smart money VCs to bet highly…

Cloud Infographic – Big Data Predictions By 2023

Cloud Infographic – Big Data Predictions By 2023

Big Data Predictions By 2023 Everything we do online from social networking to e-commerce purchases, chatting, and even simple browsing yields tons of data that certain organizations collect and poll together with other partner organizations. The results are massive volumes of data, hence the name “Big Data”. This includes personal and behavioral profiles that are stored, managed, and…

Consequences Of Combining Off Premise Cloud Storage and Corporate Data

Consequences Of Combining Off Premise Cloud Storage and Corporate Data

Off Premise Corporate Data Storage Cloud storage is a broad term. It can encompass anything from on premise solutions, to file storage, disaster recovery and off premise options. To narrow the scope, I’ve dedicated the focus of today’s discussion to the more popular cloud storage services—such as Dropbox, Box, OneDrive—which are also known as hosted,…

Low Cost Cloud Computing Gives Rise To Startups

Low Cost Cloud Computing Gives Rise To Startups

Balancing The Playing Field For Startups According to a Goldman Sachs report, cloud infrastructure and platform spending could reach $43 billion by 2018, which is up $16 billion from last year, representing a growth of around 30% from 2013 said the analyst. This phenomenal growth is laying the foundation for a new breed of startup…

The Internet of Things – Redefining The Digital World As We Know It

The Internet of Things – Redefining The Digital World As We Know It

Redefining The Digital World According to Internet World Stats (June 30th, 2015), no fewer than 3.2 billion people across the world now use the internet in one way or another. This means an incredible amount of data sharing through the utilization of API’s, Cloud platforms and inevitably the world of connected Things. The Internet of Things is a…

Cloud Infographic – Monetizing Internet Of Things

Cloud Infographic – Monetizing Internet Of Things

Monetizing Internet Of Things There are many interesting ways in which companies are looking to connect devices to the cloud. From the vehicles to kitchen appliances the internet of things is already a $1.9 trillion dollar market based on research estimates from IDC. Included is a fascinating infographic provided by AriaSystems which shows us some of the exciting…