In this four-part series, we discuss the similar yet distinct terms of technical debt and digital debt. We’ll talk about what they are, and why they’re a problem, not just for IT teams or those selling software, but also for organizations in the language industry.
In our previous post, What is technical debt and why is it problematic for localization companies? we learned how easily technical debt can accumulate, especially in the rush to meet deadlines. And we discussed the issues this causes further down the track, from impacting your flexibility and speed to ultimately affecting your ability to compete.
Now let’s discuss how we can reduce technical debt, or stop it from accumulating in the first place.
How can you reduce technical debt?
Let’s start by saying that technical debt can’t be eliminated entirely. In today’s fast-paced business climate, organizations will always have some level of technical debt. But to avoid cumbersome IT systems, efforts need to be made to manage and reduce them.
Track the scale and sources of your technical debt
One important factor for reducing technical debt is monitoring. This means ensuring that you’re tracking technical debt properly and that you’re aware of its sources. Because you can’t make proper strides to address an issue if you’re not sure of its scale or causes.
Factor technical debt into your financial budget
In many organizations, the C-suite is now acutely aware of the importance of technical debt. And to ensure it’s taken seriously and dealt with accordingly, some are now incorporating it into their financial budgets, listing tech debt interest in their profit and loss statements.
Allocate resources to reduce existing technical debt
Make sure that your team understands the importance of reducing technical debt, and what the consequences are if it gets out of control. It’s a good idea to allocate specific team members to regularly check levels and sources of technical debt, and take steps to plug any gaps or resolve any issues.
Include technical debt-related KPIs
KPIs related to reducing or preventing technical debt is an excellent way of motivating staff to take this issue seriously. Of course, they should be tailored to each team member’s role and responsibilities. For instance, for a project manager it might be about raising technical issues or manual workarounds they notice in their day-to-day work, or perhaps even suggesting alternative solutions. Meanwhile, for your in-house tech team, it might be more around doing a monthly audit of existing systems, as well as acting on issues raised by others.
How can you avoid technical debt in the first place?
Though you can’t really achieve technical debt zero, there are some steps you can take to minimize tech debt levels.
Plan well and thoroughly
In business, many mistakes can be traced back to poor planning. So we can’t emphasize this one enough. Provided you plan your technical projects, system implementations, and updates well enough, and clearly define their scope, scale, goals, resources, budget, and timeline, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. And because you’ll have allowed for enough time and resources to build features and products properly, you’ll be minimizing the associated technical debt.
Encourage cross-organizational teamwork
Siloization can be a key contributor to tech debt. When the right-hand doesn’t talk to the left, you often end up with processes or systems that don’t work together, don’t fulfill requirements, are difficult to use or update, or worse still, are entirely unnecessary. If instead your organizational approach is based on teamwork and relevant teams talk to and understand what each other needs, you’re much more likely to end up with systems and processes that fit the bill.
Adopt an agile approach
An agile approach involves breaking down updates and releases into many small parts and delivering them often. Unlike a traditional approach to software development, projects aren’t ever really finished. Instead, they’re delivered continuously in iterations. In fact, the agile approach can not only “be a good way to stay on top of technical debt” but can also help minimize it in the first place.
Use scalable, agile systems and tools
The market is undergoing unprecedented levels of change, often at incredible speed. And you need to be able to respond to these changes, quickly. Which means you need flexible systems and tools that can scale on demand. It’s also a great idea to use systems that are developed according to the agile methodology. Because if they themselves have low levels of tech debt, this will impact your overall tech debt. And the even better news? XTRF meets all these criteria – it’s scalable, it’s flexible, and it’s built according to the agile philosophy.