Asinpa LLC

The High Cost of Technical Debt

Just like in life, companies age, causing business processes to become inefficient. Systems and processes can quickly become antiquated and outdated, ultimately costing the company precious resources to turn those inefficient workflows into efficient systems. Over time, the inefficiencies create technical debt that must be addressed by refactoring, fixing bugs, or reworking parts of systems that are not operating as they should.

Technical debt is a concept that refers to the accumulation of suboptimal or inefficient code, design, or infrastructure within a system. Just like financial debt, technical debt can accrue interest over time, leading to increased costs, decreased productivity, and decreased overall quality of the system. In order to maintain healthy and sustainable processes, it is crucial to actively manage and reduce technical debt. A study of technical debt in 2019 found that it reduces adjusted profit by greater than 15%. (NOTE: do you have a link to this study? It would be great to link to the article).

Even Big Companies Fall Victim to Technical Debt: Real-life examples

Here are some real-life examples of companies that faced challenges (and ultimately, obliteration) due to ineffectively managing their technical debt:

  • Myspace: Myspace faced significant technical debt issues as it struggled to keep up with the rapidly evolving social media landscape. The platform’s architecture didn’t scale efficiently, leading to slow performance and poor user experiences. Users started migrating to more efficient and updated platforms like Facebook, contributing to Myspace’s decline.
  • Nokia: Blackberry, known for its early success in the smartphone market, encountered tech debt issues when it failed to adapt its operating system and hardware to compete with newer smartphone platforms. The company’s outdated software architecture and limited app ecosystem made it less attractive, leading to a decline in market share.
  • Boeing 737 Max: The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft met severe technical debt issues related to its MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) software. The system was designed to address stability concerns with the new aircraft, but insufficient testing and documentation led to two fatal crashes. This led to the global grounding of the plane and substantial reputational damage to Boeing—not to mention the loss of 346 lives.
  • Adobe Flash: Adobe Flash confronted challenges as it became increasingly susceptible to security vulnerabilities and performance issues. With the rise of HTML5 and modern web standards, Flash lost its relevance, leading Adobe to announce its end-of-life and discontinuation by the end of 2020.

Strategies to Effectively Reduce Technical Debt:

1. Prioritize and categorize: Start by identifying and categorizing different types of technical debt within your systems. With software projects, this could include issues such as outdated libraries, code duplication, lack of documentation, or inefficient algorithms. Prioritize these issues based on their impact on the project and the effort required to address them.

2. Incremental refactoring: Instead of trying to tackle all technical debt at once, focus on incremental refactoring. Break down the work into smaller, manageable tasks that can be completed within a reasonable timeframe. This approach allows you to continuously improve the codebase without disrupting ongoing development work.

3. Automated testing: Implement automated testing practices to ensure that any changes made to the codebase do not introduce new issues or regressions. Automated tests can help catch bugs early in the development process, reducing the likelihood of technical debt accumulating over time.

4. Code reviews: Encourage code reviews within your development team. This collaborative approach can help identify potential technical debt issues early on and ensure that best practices are followed throughout the development process.

5. Invest in training and education: Technical debt can often be the result of developers lacking the necessary skills or knowledge to implement best practices. Invest in training and education programs to ensure that your team is equipped with the skills needed to write clean, maintainable code.

6. Regular maintenance: Schedule regular maintenance and refactoring a part of your development process. Set aside time in each sprint or release cycle to address technical debt issues and improve the overall quality of the codebase.

Asinpa has expertise in reducing technical debt as well as integrating existing systems and processes with new systems and process automation. Utilizing Asinpa’s digital transformation strategies and cloud migration strategies, Asinpa can help automate workflows and achieve more consistent throughput.

Technical debt is a natural part of the software development process, but with proactive management and continuous improvement, you can minimize its impact and ensure the long-term success of your systems and processes.

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