May 25, 2023 | 5 Min
How to Reduce Your Technical Debt
Technical debt has been called the silent business killer. More specifically, studies show it drains between 10-20% from new product tech budgets. And it’s only going to get worse, considering that 60% of execs feel their tech debt has noticeably increased over the past three years.
With digital acceleration, there’s a higher possibility of technical debt impacting your business, including the customer experience, website stability, employee productivity and long-term business performance. It’s not just an IT and development problem.
Here we explain what technical debt is, why it matters to your ecommerce business, and ways to help you reduce technical debt.
What is technical debt?
Technical debt occurs when speedy product delivery is prioritized over technical and design considerations. As developers take shortcuts to meet tight deadlines, debt comes in the form of ongoing maintenance, workarounds, and backend upgrades required to keep your digital estate functional.
Over time, this results in surging operational and technology costs, longer time to market, and reduced flexibility.
How do you reduce technical debt?
Develop only what is required
It can be tempting to make late requests for new features when you’ve received user feedback. To build a product with more flexibility, developers may load it with extra functionalities, which won’t always be relevant to future requirements. These added functionalities can build up over time, increasing your technical debt.
Create documentation for new code
Writing code with proper documentation means it can easily be handed over, reused more frequently and built on top of with short lead times. Some examples of good documentation within your code include instructions for users, notes for future reconsideration and comments about recent changes. Examples of good documentation about your code include FAQs, how-to guides and readme files.
Use POC for feasibility, not production
If the proof of concept (POC) goes well, decision makers can sometimes push to move straight to production. However, a POC is not a complete solution and will often lack proper structure, error handling, flexibility to add new capabilities, and data validation. To minimize technical debt, hang fire on production until you have a complete solution.
Put early code freezes in place
Implementing an early code freeze allows your developers to focus on improving the quality and stability of existing code, instead of sprinting to include late-minute requirements or requests for changes in functionality. This may lead to a short-term reduction in time-to-market, but it’s often the quick fixes that create (costly) problems in the future.
How can CFOs reduce the financial burden of technical debt?
Take responsibility for the debt
Technical debt is not exclusively a technology issue, but a business issue. This is particularly relevant to CFOs, who should look to establish a framework to calculate the financial costs of tech debt, and track its impact across departments, projects and products.
Empower product teams to push back
Product managers may find it difficult to push back on requests for quick additional features, especially if it’s in relation to a new contract or an internal deadline. By giving your product team the autonomy to push back on deadlines and budgets likely to create tech debt, you’ll create a more cost-effective product release process.
Dedicate resources to tackling technical debt
Once there is a company-wide understanding of the tech debt, it’s important to allocate funding and dedicate resources to address debt accumulation. Where some companies might choose to create a team of architects to resolve issues related to specific developments, others take a more agile approach and will plant resources in development teams to fix production issues stemming from code, or work through the tech debt backlog outside of major projects.
Evaluate your tech stack
Look to identify which elements of your tech stack are the least cost-effective. When tech debt exceeds 50% of tech asset value, it might be time to build a business case for adapting new technology solutions to avoid further risk and costs. Updating your legacy stack to a composable architecture has huge benefits, including affordable scalability and improving the customer experience. Learn more about the benefits of moving to a composable DXP here.