What is Technical Debt?

Technical debt is the cost of the extra effort that comes from choosing the fastest rather than the best solution. While technical debt is sometimes worthwhile, it's important that your team is aware of the pros and cons of rapid reviews and how to effectively rework. In this post, we'll define technical debt, offer strategies for debt reduction, and explore the difference between profitable and unprofitable valuation.

Technical Debt

Technical debt is the price of additional work that has to be done because the fastest was chosen instead of the best solution. The term "technical debt" was first used in 1992 by software engineer Ward Cunningham, although it has undergone several changes since then. Technical debt - also called technical debt and code debt - today mostly results from the decision of development teams to write fast code while adding new features to a software development product. Delivering code quickly can help your team meet deadlines and the resulting debt can be lucrative, but if handled poorly, it can also have a negative impact. Once the decision to collect the technical debt is made, these unintended consequences cannot always be avoided.

When a developer uses expedient, suboptimal coding or design solutions to speed up production, the result is often technical debt. The team will then (at some point) have to return to that product to update the code or add new features.

The following are some typical explanations companies give for reasons to compromise quality and speed −

  • Tactical choice to explore market fit.

  • Budget or time constraints.

  • Bad Decisions in Software Engineering.

  • Insufficient code options.

  • Wrong company choices.

Technical Debt Quadrants

The technical debt quadrants are a group of four different causes of technical debt. Martin Fowler identified four categories of technical debt: inadvertent, intentional, prudent and irresponsible. Assigning technical debt to these quadrants makes understanding the purpose and history of coding issues easier. Some code debts may be intentional and classified as good debt, but other codes may be unintentional and classified as bad debt.

Prudent and Deliberate

While the team is aware that they are getting an advantage, be cautious and watchful. Continue to post and deal with the fallout later. This choice is appropriate if the benefits of early release outweigh the cost of technical debt or the interests are modest enough.

Reckless and Deliberate

when a group can foresee the outcomes and take precautions, but nonetheless prioritizes speed over quality.

Prudent and Inadvertent

When the team learns how the solution should be implemented in relation to the application.

Reckless and Inadvertent

When a team tries to write the best code without essential knowledge, the result is careless and unintentional debt. The team is completely unknown of the mistakes made.

Technical Debt Types

Technical debt is divided into two types

1. International Technical debt

When a company chooses to focus on the here and now instead of the future, it is intentionally incurring debt. Intentional debt is both short-term and long-term. For example, deliberately taking on debt to pay off existing debt is short-term debt, while avoiding a greater burden in the future is long-term debt. It is also called as active debt.

2. Unintentional Technical debt

However, unintentional technical debt is caused by misunderstandings, unintentional mistakes, or in some cases, poorly written code. Unintended technical debt can be seen in a design strategy that is ultimately flawed. This is the unintended consequence of making an unavoidable mistake. Since the team did not inadvertently accumulate technical debt, it can be assumed that this was accidental. In most cases, you won't notice the error until you finish work or install a software update. It is also called as passive debt.

Technical Debt – Good or Bad?

It's not necessarily terrible to have technical debt. The majority of development teams frequently must choose between speed, cost, and quality. It may be a problem when −

  • Not aware of the debt.

  • Disregard the alleged debt.

Technical debt can be used in both good and bad ways, just like financial debt. Technical debt can also result from a conscious decision to release high-quality code in sprints and meet software deadlines. In other cases, an unavoidable software update bug causes technological debt.

How to Control Technical Debt?

The balance of time, quality, and cost must be considered when discussing technical debt. However, keep in mind the governance structure, toolkit, and mindset of the software development team. Finding the right mix in this equation is critical. Additionally, but not exclusively, appropriate technology can help. Companies are increasingly using modern technologies such as low-code development platforms to create diverse and differentiated solutions, avoiding the difficulties of temporary fixes such as technical debt. This is the situation in Out Systems. Applications created with Out Systems do not require proprietary components, runtimes or translations. Instead, they rely on accepted frameworks and designs in the business. This reduces technological debt before work ever starts.


Technical debt must be accumulated because solving a problem in a complex environment always leads to new insights and learning, and bad previous decisions. So, managing technical debt requires compromises. Business cannot be achieved in the long term by producing new features in a feature factory. However, a flawlessly functioning application is also worthless without users.

As a result, Scrum's technical debt management is the responsibility of the entire Scrum team, making it an excellent example of Scrum's built-in checks and balances. How do you deal with technical debt on a daily basis? Tell us about it in the comments.

Updated on: 28-Mar-2023


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