reduce technical debt


Technical debt is a term that often arises in the world of software development. Just like financial debt, technical debt can have a significant impact on your business. In this article, we will explore what technical debt is, its impact on your business, and most importantly, provide a step-by-step approach to reducing it. 


What is Meant by Technical Debt? 

Technical debt is a metaphorical concept in software development that describes the consequences of poor or hasty decision-making during the development process. It occurs when developers take shortcuts or make compromises to meet immediate deadlines, resulting in suboptimal code quality. These shortcuts may include writing quick and dirty code, skipping documentation, or deferring necessary system refactorings. Over time, these shortcuts accumulate and create a backlog of work that needs to be addressed, leading to technical debt. 

The Impact of Technical Debt on Your Business 

The impact of technical debt on your business cannot be underestimated. Just like financial debt, technical debt carries interest. The longer it remains unaddressed, the more costly it becomes. Technical debt can slow down your development team, increase the likelihood of system failures, and impede the ability to deliver new features or updates. Additionally, it can negatively affect customer satisfaction and retention, as the accumulated debt makes it harder to respond to changing market demands and deliver high-quality software. 

Signs That You Have Accumulated Technical Debt 

Identifying the presence of technical debt is crucial for taking the necessary steps to reduce it. Some common signs of accumulated technical debt include: 

  1. Frequent system crashes or performance issues. 
  2. Difficulty in adding new features or making changes to existing ones. 
  3. Lack of proper documentation or outdated documentation. 
  4. High defect density and recurring bug fixes. 
  5. Developers spending a significant amount of time on maintenance rather than innovation. 

If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to acknowledge the presence of technical debt and take proactive measures to address it.

The Importance of Reducing Technical Debt 

Reducing technical debt extends far beyond mere code cleanliness; it represents a strategic choice with direct implications for your business’s prosperity. Addressing technical debt entails various advantages. Firstly, it enhances the overall quality and maintainability of your code, fostering smoother collaboration and comprehension among development teams. Additionally, it boosts productivity and efficiency within your teams, enabling them to allocate their resources more effectively and expedite project delivery. Moreover, tackling technical debt serves as a preventive measure against system failures and downtime, safeguarding business continuity. Furthermore, it bolsters your capacity to adapt to evolving business requirements by streamlining technical constraints and architectural bottlenecks. Lastly, it significantly impacts customer satisfaction and retention, as software reliability and performance directly influence user experiences. Ultimately, reducing technical debt is an investment in the enduring prosperity and resilience of your software infrastructure.

reduce technical debt

How Do You Fight Technical Debt?

Fighting technical debt requires a systematic and proactive approach. It involves identifying, prioritizing, and addressing the accumulated debt in a controlled and sustainable manner. One popular framework for managing technical debt is the concept of the “4 quadrants of technical debt.” Let’s delve into each quadrant and understand how they contribute to your debt reduction strategy. 

Quadrant 1: Reckless and Deliberate Debt 

This quadrant represents technical debt that is incurred knowingly and deliberately. It includes shortcuts taken to meet tight deadlines or deliver quick prototypes. While this type of debt can be beneficial in the short term, it often leads to long-term consequences. To reduce this debt, it’s crucial to identify the reasons for its occurrence and establish guidelines to prevent its recurrence. 

Quadrant 2: Prudent and Deliberate Debt 

Prudent and deliberate debt refers to technical debt that is incurred intentionally for strategic reasons. It involves making conscious trade-offs to gain a competitive advantage or meet specific business needs. Although this debt is planned and managed, it still needs to be monitored and addressed to ensure it doesn’t become excessive and detrimental to the system’s overall health. 

Quadrant 3: Reckless and Unintentional Debt 

Reckless and unintentional debt arises from poor development practices, lack of knowledge, or inadequate skill sets. It includes code that is poorly structured, hard to maintain, or prone to errors. To reduce this debt, it’s crucial to invest in continuous learning, provide training opportunities, and establish coding standards and best practices within your development team. 

Quadrant 4: Prudent and Unintentional Debt 

Prudent and unintentional debt represents technical debt that arises from unforeseen circumstances or external dependencies. It includes debt incurred due to changes in business requirements, technological advancements, or third party software updates. To reduce this debt, it’s important to stay updated with industry trends, conduct regular system audits, and have contingency plans in place. 

By understanding these quadrants, you can better assess and prioritize your technical debt reduction efforts.

reduce technical debt

Steps to Reduce Technical Debt 

Now that we have explored the concept of technical debt and its impact, let’s dive into a step-by-step approach to reducing it. By following these steps, you can effectively manage and gradually eliminate technical debt within your software systems. 

Step 1: Assessing Your Technical Debt 

The first step in reducing technical debt is to assess its current state within your systems. This involves identifying areas of debt, evaluating its impact on your business, and understanding the underlying causes. Conducting a thorough technical debt assessment will provide you with a clear picture of the debt landscape and enable you to prioritize your efforts effectively. 

Step 2: Prioritizing and Planning Your Debt Reduction Strategy 

Once you have assessed your technical debt, it’s time to prioritize and plan your debt reduction strategy. Identify the most critical areas of debt that need immediate attention and create a roadmap for addressing them. Consider factors such as business impact, customer needs, development team capacity, and available resources when prioritizing your debt reduction efforts. 

Step 3: How Can We Prevent Tech Debt?

While reducing existing technical debt is essential, preventing its accumulation in the first place is equally important. Adopting proactive measures can help minimize the future accumulation of debt. Some strategies to prevent technical debt include: 

  1. Following coding best practices and design principles. 
  2. Conducting regular code reviews and pair programming sessions. 
  3. Ensuring proper documentation and knowledge sharing. 
  4. Investing in automated testing and continuous integration. 
  5. Encouraging a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing within your development team. 

By integrating these preventive measures into your development process, you can reduce the likelihood of technical debt accumulation. 

Step 4: Monitoring and Maintaining Your Reduced Technical Debt 

Reducing technical debt is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and maintenance. Once you have implemented your debt reduction strategies, it’s important to regularly evaluate their effectiveness and make adjustments as needed. Monitor the impact on code quality, system performance, and development team productivity. Additionally, establish processes for addressing new debt as it arises to ensure it doesn’t accumulate again. 

engineering organization structure

How to Avoid Technical Debt in Agile? 

Agile methodologies are known for their iterative and incremental approach to software development. While Agile practices promote adaptability and responsiveness, they can also inadvertently lead to the accumulation of technical debt if not managed properly. To avoid technical debt in Agile, consider the following practices: 

1. Continuous Refactoring: Regularly refactor your codebase to improve its design, maintainability, and readability. Refactoring should be an integral part of your development process, allowing you to address debt as it arises. 

2. Test-Driven Development (TDD): Adopt TDD practices to ensure that your code is thoroughly tested and meets the desired requirements. Writing tests before implementing functionality helps prevent regressions and reduces the likelihood of introducing debt. 

3. Collaborative Decision-Making: Encourage collaboration among team members when making technical decisions. By involving the entire team in decision-making processes, you can prevent individual shortcuts that may lead to debt. 

4. Continuous Integration and Delivery: Embrace continuous integration and delivery practices to ensure that your code changes are continuously integrated and deployed. This reduces the risk of delayed integration and the accumulation of debt. 

By incorporating these practices into your Agile workflow, you can mitigate the risk of technical debt and maintain a sustainable development pace. 

How Do You Handle Technical Debt in Scrum? 

Scrum is a popular Agile framework that emphasizes iterative development and cross-functional teams. When it comes to handling technical debt in Scrum, the following practices can be beneficial: 

  • Sprint Planning: During sprint planning, allocate time specifically for addressing technical debt. This ensures that debt reduction efforts are prioritized alongside new feature development.
  • Refinement Sessions: Include technical debt refinement sessions in your backlog refinement meetings. Use these sessions to identify, estimate, and prioritize technical debt-related tasks. 
  • Definition of Done: Define clear and comprehensive criteria for what constitutes “done” for each user story. Ensure that these criteria include addressing any associated technical debt. 
  • Retrospectives: Use sprint retrospectives as an opportunity to reflect on the impact of technical debt on the team’s productivity and morale. Identify and discuss potential improvements to your debt reduction strategies. 

By integrating these practices into your Scrum framework, you can effectively manage and reduce technical debt while maintaining a high level of agility and responsiveness. 


Technical debt is a reality that every software development team faces. However, by understanding its impact and taking a proactive approach to reduce it, you can ensure the long-term success and sustainability of your software systems. Follow the step-by-step approach outlined in this article, leverage the available tools and resources, and adopt preventive measures to minimize the accumulation of new debt. By doing so, you can improve code quality, enhance team productivity, and deliver high-quality software that meets the evolving needs of your business and customers. So, start reducing your technical debt today and secure a brighter future for your software systems. 


Start assessing your technical debt and create a plan to reduce it today. Your software systems will thank you in the long run! To learn more about it, you can read our article about Pull Requests.

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