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In the software development process, developers may take two approaches. They may take the easy approach that costs less but could have devastating outcomes. They may also take the better approach which could take longer but avoid serious issues. Technical debt in agile development is more significant today.

It means the indirect costs incurred due to taking the easy way. Organizations must manage or reduce technical debt in all possible ways. It maintains software development health and project sustainability. Using technical debt management best practices is useful for organizations.

What does technical debt management in software development mean?

Before discussing what managing technical debt is, let's discuss the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Software development goes through an intensive process. Lifecycle defines the various phases involved in the entire process. Each phase works towards ensuring high-quality software.

Technical debt is multifaceted and its definition cuts across several areas. In its simplest terms, technical debt comes when teams borrow time and money in SDLC. Due to this, they write the code quickly and cause imperfections. The technical debt examples are software bugs and deadline shortcuts. This debt increases with time until developers are forced to fix them. The technical debt management process often increases the initial project cost. Lack of proper management leads to unstable software that cannot be trusted. The team has to fix the bugs, security gaps, and weak structure. This ensures the code works well and prevents serious issues in the future.

SDLC begins with the planning phase. Here, the client defines his goals and project scale. The cycle progresses into requirements analysis. In this phase, the team understands what the software is required to do. Once agreed upon, the team moves on to the design phase. Next, they do implementation, testing, and ends with deployment. The maintenance phase is progressive and requires consistent updates.

The way developers handle the stages of SDLC determines whether they will experience technical debt. A team may decide to fix things quickly and meet deadlines. This becomes a catalyst for technical debt. Their goal could be to save money, and time, or fix issues fast. They seek to reduce the agreed cost and have more money left in their account.

This is a debt that must be paid in the end. It happens once the software fails to meet its goal. The team ends up with poor-quality code. They create low-security structures and higher maintenance costs. The team spends more time fixing the issues and might redesign the entire structure. Here are examples of technical debt.

  • Unintentional. This is accumulated due to a lack of experience in the team. It happens due to errors and mistakes caused without knowledge.
  • Intentional. This comes due to shortcuts in the stages of SDLC. The team does this to save money and time or get quick outcomes.
  • Environmental. This comes due to external and unavoidable circumstances. Technologies might suddenly change or customers may change their scope.

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Best practices for managing technical debt

Developers require a proactive approach to reduce technical debt. They require knowledge about the various types of it. This way, they can create strategies to manage each type. The following best practices are crucial for managing technical debt. They touch across all the stages of SDLC.

Make the goals clear

The planning phase should be for setting clear goals. Discuss the project priorities and the long-term goals. Discuss the possibilities of technical debt in the SDLC. Have a plan for addressing the various types of technical debt that may arise.

Create a technical debt budget

Consider the different types of technical debt when budgeting. Understand that some debts are unintentional yet they have serious consequences. Such issues may arise even when the team is well knowledgeable of the SDLC. Be flexible and set aside time to deal with such issues. Set aside resources like people and money for such uncertainties.

Engage everyone from the start

Debts may come due to scope changes by customers. They may come due to disagreements within the team. A limited budget may force the team to rush things or take shortcuts. You can avoid this by having a debt management system in place.

Engage everyone from the planning phase to the end. Help them understand the results of technical debt in SDLC. Balance business needs with technical needs. Ensure the instructions are clear to avoid mistakes.

Follow the best code design practices

Understand the agreeable code design standards. This includes code structure, security, maintenance, and reusability. A strong code is hard to breach and cannot cause technical debt. The design should be flexible and scalable. Let your team review the code structure and give feedback. Act on the potential errors and technical debt because its impact becomes serious. You may involve expert developers in communities.

Use automated testing

Testing should start from the design phase and go on to the end. Automated testing saves time and money. Create the testing scripts in the initial design phase and launch them. Integrate multiple testing measures like integration, unit, and end-to-end testing. Choose the best testing automation tools like Appium and Selenium. This minimizes the chances of technical debts.

Improve code structure continuously

Code structure improvement ensures it can withstand all challenges. Ensure the code does not change its behavior due to improvement. Your team should not wait to address technical debt later. It should address them during development.

Track defects and address them in real time. You should make fixing a priority to void accruing technical debt. Create a list of technical debt items that you might experience. Address them to avoid problems in the future.

Do continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI and CD)

The goal of CI/CD is to frequently and automatically integrate code changes. These changes are implemented in the shared code repository. This is a centralized place, where your team can track, share, and manage changes. A CI/CD pipeline helps with fast deployment and avoids outages.

It enhances visibility across the SDLC. The pipeline reduces delivery costs and manual debugging. It enhances code quality which minimizes the chances of technical debt. CI/CD pipeline allows teams to have a vibrant debt management system in the SDLC.

Create technical debt-tracking metrics

Technical debt tracking metrics are measures that help keep technical debt buildup under control. These metrics identify areas that require improvement. They help track progress in debt reduction and task prioritization. This helps maintain a healthy code structure. The metrics may include measuring code quality, cycle time, and debt index. It may measure code coverage, bugs rate, and code churn rate.


Managing technical debt should be included in the SDLC. Teams must avoid taking the easy way it could accumulate debt. Management must start with the planning phase. It should continuously progress throughout the SDLC. The team should focus on long-term debt management instead of quick fixes. This process requires the engagement of every stakeholder. They plan together and create strong technical debt management metrics.

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