In our last article we discussed what exactly technical debt is. Now, Let’s talk about how to get out of it. Escaping the confines of technical debt can be challenging for any business. Regardless of size, your company could have huge flaws in its application that could bring its functionality to a grinding halt. To a lesser degree, companies may have multiple technical issues that have been ignored for years and are impacting your business. This article aims to give you strategies that will help transform your development environment into a well-oiled machine, helping you escape the cost of bad software development. By investing in Agile development methods, roadmaps, code reviews, testing, and continuous integration, your development process can align in a way that reduces your long-term accrual of technical debt.
Is your company needing an organized and effective method for building applications? Agile is a great way to streamline your development process and align your team on the right path to digging out of technical debt. Agile’s iterative development concept is great for building applications. Daily stand-up meetings provide an environment for problem solving and productive discussion related to the development process. Agile can be implemented in such a way that roadblocks leading to potential bugs and technical debt are worked through in a collaborative manner. With agile, the focus moves away from schedules and towards high-quality, well-constructed software.
Technical debt can build up over years and often it takes a plan over months or years to address these issues. Planning starts with understanding the current business needs and noting where your systems are not fully supporting these or future needs. Examples of technical shortcomings include the inability to scale your software solutions to new business needs; poor performance with current usage; or dependence on old operating systems and technologies that with soon reach end of life.
A roadmap is a plan to identify these issues by prioritizing them and creating a month-by-month schedule to address them. This orderly approach allows for alignment across the host of issues and a logical order to address them which supports the business. This is a living plan that should be updated quarterly or annually as business needs change. Roadmaps allow you to address future needs with incremental work and a budget which will allow your business to scale and thrive.
There are many benefits to having a code review process. Code reviews play a big part in reducing the effects of limiting new technical debt on your application. Thorough reviews help answer many questions such as: Are there logical errors in the code? Is the code implemented in a way that aligns to the use case? Does new code align to the style guide?
Reviews help developers learn the code base, enable efficiency, and catch bugs before they make their way into a production environment. Teams can benefit from them because no single member of the team is solely responsible for knowing the code base. When many members of the team have a deep knowledge of the code, inefficiencies are spotted sooner by more people. From a mentoring standpoint, code reviews help senior developers of the team mentor junior members on the team. Opportunities for discussion are present between various levels of experience so that learning and professional growth can occur. Lastly, knowing that code is going to be reviewed by a senior member of the team ensures that the code is crafted carefully. Careful attention to detail ultimately speeds up the overall development process.
Testing is a hot topic among development teams. There are numerous benefits to implementing a testing (also known as QA) system. In addition to there being many benefits, there are also many different flavors of testing – many of which go beyond the scope of this article. Empower your developers to write tests for their code. When developers write their own tests, they are more vested in fixing them when they fail. Additionally, developers who understand the requirements of their features are more likely to architect their code more efficiently.
Having a software tester other than the developer provides quality benefits. Developers can be blind to problems that end users may encounter. They have a specific understanding of how the software should work but may be unable to represent the view of hundreds of users as they test their software. A software tester can provide an end-user perspective of the software and identify new defects before the actual customer finds them.
With new features come new bugs and regressions. Take the time to understand these mistakes and how they occur. Then, before you develop new code, be sure to write a test for it first. Automated testing ensures that the software behaves as expected. Testing helps catch bugs early before the application hits a user-facing environment. Catching problems early through automated testing ensures a level of confidence when shipping your code. By reducing problems, the costs of development go down, and so does the level of technical debt.
Continuous integration (CI) in your code base is paramount along the critical path to shipping your code. How does a continuous integration process reduce your technical debt? It’s simple, really. Ideally your team has a process where they are committing new code on a daily basis. The CI environment generates new builds of your application at the moment new code is committed. Depending on the length of your build process, knowing if your software is functional or not can be determined within a matter of minutes. Knowing that your code is shipping bug free through your CI process will cut down on developer costs and time. A comprehensive CI environment will not only check if your code compiles, it will also check if your code works as designed by running your automated tests. Using a CI process will help keep your developers productive, find defects early and cut down on your technical debt.
We Can Help
When you choose Flint Hills Group, you choose a dedicated team of experienced US individuals whose focus is delivering a high quality and reliable product. We can provide a roadmap assessment of your systems resulting in a plan to address your current and future business needs. Flint Hills Group uses the Agile development process with continuous integration and testing. We believe it is important to build your solution in a way that reduces technical debt and development costs.
Not sure if you should hire a software development agency? Check out these 5 benefits to hiring an agency. Our hand-picked, US-based software developers can give your business what it needs to thrive in a rapidly evolving tech world. Browse what Flint Hills Group can provide for your business.