How to Deal with Technical Debt

Marek Majdak

Sep 29, 20235 min read

How to Deal with Technical Debt

Table of Content

  • What is Technical Debt?

    • Definition of Technical Debt

    • Types of Technical Debt

  • Causes of Technical Debt

    • Common Causes of Technical Debt

  • Impacts of Technical Debt

    • Financial Impact of Technical Debt

    • Risks Involved in Unmanaged Technical Debt

  • Managing Technical Debt

    • Strategies to Reduce and Manage Technical Debt

    • Detecting Growing Technical Debt

    • Reducing Existing Technical Debt

  • Conclusion

    • FAQs:

Technical debt is an unavoidable facet of the software development cycle. Learning how to manage technical debt efficiently can lead to smoother development processes and higher code quality. In this guide, we unpack the essential strategies and best practices to help your team navigate through the intricate world of technical debt.

What is Technical Debt?

Definition of Technical Debt

Technical debt, sometimes referred to as tech debt, is a metaphor that equates software development to financial debt. It reflects the implied cost of additional rework that comes when you choose a quicker yet less optimum solution over a better approach that might take longer. Understanding various aspects of technical debt helps in addressing and reducing technical debt effectively.

Types of Technical Debt

Intentional Tech Debt: Sometimes, development teams knowingly incur technical debt to meet deadlines or business goals. It's planned and well-documented.

Unintentional Tech Debt: This type of technical debt occurs due to a lack of experience or knowledge. It's generally unplanned and can be avoided through best practices and preventive measures.

Causes of Technical Debt

Common Causes of Technical Debt

  • Insufficient Testing: Skipping automated tests to save time.
  • Rushed Coding: Ignoring coding standards in a bid to prioritize speed.
  • Neglecting Code Refactoring: Failing to streamline and simplify code at regular intervals.
  • Legacy Code: Persisting with old and obsolete code, resisting updates or improvements.
  • Ignoring Documentation: Lack of adequate code documentation to guide future development tasks.

Impacts of Technical Debt

Financial Impact of Technical Debt

The financial metaphor associated with technical debt highlights the cumulative costs that a team accrues over time, hindering the ability to implement new features effectively. It can significantly affect business goals and customer experience.

Risks Involved in Unmanaged Technical Debt

Ignoring existing debt can escalate to increased development time, with the potential for bug fixes and additional trade-offs further down the line. Unaddressed technical debt can create an environment where the development team struggles to keep up with business needs and customer expectations.

Managing Technical Debt

Adeptly managing technical debt involves developing strategies that not only address existing debt but also prevent the accumulation of new technical debt. Here are some strategies:

Strategies to Reduce and Manage Technical Debt

Prioritize Code Quality: Invest time in maintaining high code quality to prevent the buildup of technical debt.

Automated Testing: Employ automated testing activities to identify issues early in the development cycle.

Agile Software Development: Embrace agile development approaches to foster cross-functional teams working in harmony.

Setting Coding Standards: Establish and adhere to coding standards to prevent unnecessary complications.

Regular Reviews: Conduct regular code reviews to track and tackle technical debt in a timely manner.

Detecting Growing Technical Debt

In learning how to deal with technical debt, recognizing the signs of growing technical debt is essential. Utilize code analysis tools to identify and address tech debt in an ongoing manner. These tools can help your engineering team keep a tab on:

Code Complexity

Code Duplication

Bug Density

Code Coverage

Reducing Existing Technical Debt

Mitigating existing technical debt is a priority. Here’s a checklist to guide your development team in reducing technical debt:

Code Refactoring: Regularly refactor code to improve its structure without changing external behavior.

Documentation: Maintain up-to-date documentation to facilitate easier management of technical debt.

Training: Equip your team with the necessary training to avoid unintentional tech debt.

Resource Allocation: Dedicate resources periodically to address and reduce technical debt.


Learning how to deal with technical debt is a continuous process that requires a proactive approach. By embedding best practices into your development cycle, you can mitigate risks and foster a healthy, productive development environment. Remember, the goal is not only to reduce technical debt but also to prevent its accumulation, paving the way for successful project completions and satisfied stakeholders.


What is technical debt? Technical debt, also known as tech debt, is a term used to describe the potential rework and additional costs incurred when choosing quick, easier solutions over better, but more time-consuming options during software development.

How can I identify technical debt in my project? Identifying technical debt can be done through code analysis tools which help pinpoint areas with complex code, code duplication, or areas where best practices were not followed.

What are the common causes of technical debt? Common causes include insufficient testing, neglecting code refactoring, ignoring documentation, and persisting with legacy code.

How does technical debt impact financial aspects? Technical debt can increase costs over time, affecting the resources allocated for new features and can potentially impact business goals negatively.

Can technical debt be avoided completely? While it's challenging to avoid technical debt completely, adopting preventive measures like maintaining code quality and following coding standards can minimize its accumulation.

What are the strategies to manage technical debt? Strategies to manage technical debt include prioritizing code quality, implementing automated testing, and adopting agile software development practices.

How to prevent the accumulation of new technical debt? Preventing new technical debt involves setting coding standards, conducting regular reviews, and fostering agile development environments that emphasize quality and collaboration.

What role does automated testing play in managing technical debt? Automated testing helps in early detection of issues, reducing the buildup of technical debt by identifying problems before they escalate.

How can I reduce existing technical debt? Reducing existing technical debt can be achieved through code refactoring, maintaining up-to-date documentation, and allocating resources specifically to address technical debt.

Why is code refactoring important in managing technical debt? Code refactoring improves the code structure without altering its external behavior, which can prevent further accumulation of technical debt and make the code easier to maintain.

Can agile software development practices help in managing technical debt? Yes, agile practices foster a collaborative environment where teams can work harmoniously, making it easier to manage and reduce technical debt through iterative development approaches.

What is intentional tech debt? Intentional tech debt is a known compromise where teams choose to incur some technical debt consciously to meet certain immediate goals, with a plan to address it later.

How does unintentional tech debt occur? Unintentional tech debt occurs due to lack of experience or knowledge, generally unplanned, and can manifest as code smells, bugs, or suboptimal solutions.

What are the risks involved in unmanaged technical debt? Unmanaged technical debt can lead to increased development time, higher costs, and can adversely affect customer experience and business needs.

How can development teams track technical debt? Development teams can track technical debt using code analysis tools and by maintaining detailed documentation that helps in identifying areas of potential technical debt.

What are the implications of technical debt on development teams? Technical debt can hinder the development team's ability to implement new features effectively and may lead to increased time spent on bug fixes and other trade-offs.

What are some effective methods to tackle technical debt? Effective methods include dedicating resources to reduce existing debt, adopting automated testing activities, and implementing preventive measures to avoid the accumulation of new debt.

How does legacy code contribute to technical debt? Legacy code can be a significant contributor to technical debt as it might lack documentation, have outdated structures, and may not adhere to current coding standards, making it a breeding ground for technical debt.

What is the role of stakeholders in managing technical debt? Stakeholders play a crucial role in managing technical debt, as getting their buy-in for dedicating resources and time to address technical debt is vital for the successful implementation of strategies to reduce it.

Can technical debt lead to project failure? If not managed properly, technical debt can escalate to a point where it severely hampers the project's progress, potentially leading to failure by causing delays, increased costs, and reduced quality.

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Published on September 29, 2023


Marek Majdak Head of Development

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