Technology is by nature fast-moving. As your business grows, it’s likely that your requirements and your dependency on technology to remain efficient do too. When developing your own technology, you’re likely to accumulate tech debt over time in a number of ways.

Intentional Tech Debt

Intentional technical debt most often happens when developers prioritise the speed of development and launch for a feature over the overall quality, often due to strict timelines.

That’s not to say that the experience delivered to the end-user isn’t quality, but it could be that the underlying code, documentation or ability to expand upon the development does not align with the overall standard of your system.

Unintentional Tech Debt

Unintentional technical debt often arises from the level of experience and expertise in your team, unclear (or changes to) requirements and unforeseen issues during development, such as added complexity or reliance on integrations.

Unintentional technical debt is more likely to have a noticeable impact on your overall product and your end-user experience, as what was originally proposed is not always achievable, leading to the debt itself.

Common Types of Technical Debt

Code Debt

Code debt tends to be inefficient or poorly structured code that is more likely to lead to bugs, future maintenance or decreased performance.

Developers are often taught the DRY principle (an acronym of Don’t Repeat Yourself), which encourages code to be succinct and reusable. An early indicator of technical debt is when this principle is broken and a development uses multiple similar components, methods, API calls or operations to achieve the same result across different areas of the system.

Design Debt

Design debt refers to the underlying architecture of a system, rather than the front-end user interface, that compromises future scalability. This debt is often accumulated early in a system’s life when decisions are made on server resources and the extensibility of a system.

Design debt often leads to bottlenecks in systems, such as slow performing tasks and creates excessive costs due to excessive or ineffective architecture.

Documentation Debt

For software and web development teams, documentation is an invaluable resource. It helps to lesser the learning curve for any new team members and avoids knowledge siloing, which can be critical to small teams.

Complex systems require documentation and service as a single place for reading the purpose, structure and decisioning for a given feature, module or area of a system.

Documentation debt is one of the largest debts accrued by small teams, as the time invested in writing documentation early on often feels counterintuitive. This debt quickly becomes a problem as the team grows or distributes, particularly when working in async, and knowledge is not easily accessible.

Paying Down Technical Debt

Taking the time to resolve technical debt , “paying it down” is an incredibly valuable time investment. By taking the time to refactor and standardise code, review hosting, servers and architecture, and write easy-to-understand documentation, you are improving the environment of your technology team and the overall quality of your product.

Much like personal debt, some technical debt is manageable and to be expected. It is a natural byproduct of a growing system.

With that said, the real benefits of paying down tech debt are only visible once you take the steps to clearing the balance. Much like each payment on a loan moves you closer to financial freedom, reducing tech debt gives your team more time to invest in new features, can reduce your spend on core infrastructure and allows you to onboard new staff much more efficiently.