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What is Technical Debt?

Technical Debt Survival Guide: Strategies for Long-Term Success

Team Kissflow

Updated on 15 Apr 2024 6 min read

We’ve grown accustomed to seeing technology as the major driver of development. However, there’s another side to the coin: if early bad technological decisions aren’t pruned, they might become a source of technical debt. Budget cuts, extended time-to-market, and decreased productivity are all signs of unsolved technology difficulties. But how can you flip the script and have your systems work for you rather than against you? The first step is to understand what technical debt is.

What is Technical debt?

Technical debt is defined as a concept in software development that arises when immediate execution decisions, made to meet pressing deadlines or business objectives, conflict with optimal long-term development practices. This clash often results in compromises that can lead to increased costs or required effort to correct in the future. Technical debt is almost unavoidable in any firm because prioritizing perfection in every line of code before release could delay a project indefinitely, potentially jeopardizing the company's viability.

Technical debt is closely related to Agile and Scrum methodologies, which emphasize rapid development, flexibility, and iterative progress. These frameworks acknowledge that not all decisions made early in a project will stand the test of time. Recognizing and managing technical debt is essential in Agile and Scrum to ensure that it doesn't hinder the project's adaptability or escalate to unmanageable levels. Agile teams frequently assess and prioritize technical debt as part of their iteration reviews, ensuring that necessary refactorings and improvements are systematically addressed.

As Ward Cunningham, who first coined the term "technical debt," explains:

"Shipping first time code is like going into debt. A little debt speeds development so long as it is paid back promptly with a rewrite... The danger occurs when the debt is not repaid. Every minute spent on not-quite-right code counts as interest on that debt."

Types of technical debt

There are many different types of technical debt, but they can be broadly categorized into two main types: intentional and unintentional.

  • Intentional technical debt is taken on consciously and strategically. For example, a team might decide to release a product with a known bug in order to meet a deadline. The team knows that they will need to fix the bug later, but they believe that the benefits of releasing the product early outweigh the costs of fixing the bug later.
  • Unintentional technical debt is the result of poor coding practices or a lack of planning. For example, a team might write code that is difficult to understand or maintain, or they might not document their code well. This can make it difficult to add new features or fix bugs in the future.

Here are some of the most common types of technical debt

  • Code debt is a common type of technical debt that occurs due to poorly written code that is difficult to understand or hard to maintain. A number of factors, such as a lack of coding standards, poor coding practices, or a lack of testing, can cause code debt.
  • Architecture debt occurs when there is a problem with the overall design of a system. Architecture debt can make adding new features or scaling the system difficult. It can also lead to performance problems.
  • Documentation debt occurs due to a lack of documentation for a system. Documentation debt can make it difficult for new developers to understand the system and can also lead to errors.
  • Test debt occurs due to a lack of tests for a system. Test debt can make it difficult to find and fix bugs.
  • Build debt occurs when there is a problem with the build process for a system. Build debt can make it slow and difficult to deploy new versions of the system.

Example of technical debt

Developers might initially hard-code specific configurations, like IP addresses, file paths, or passwords, directly into an application's code for the sake of simplicity and speed during the development phase. While this approach offers immediate results, it becomes problematic as the application scales or undergoes changes.


  • Maintenance Nightmare: Updating these values requires digging through the codebase for every instance, which is time-consuming and error-prone.
  • Security Risks: Hard-coded credentials pose a significant security risk if the codebase is exposed.
  • Lack of Flexibility: The application becomes less adaptable to new environments or configurations, hindering deployment processes.

The cost

The technical debt accumulated from hard-coding practices can lead to substantial costs in terms of maintenance effort, security vulnerabilities, and reduced agility, mirroring the broader impacts.

What causes technical debt? 

Following are some of the most prevalent sources of technical debt:

1. Unanticipated expenses:

Business needs frequently get in the way of application development. Teams are under pressure to provide things more quickly for less cost. Consequently, the dynamic needs of projects lead to a huge surge in expenses.

2. Ever-evolving technology:

It is common for what made sense for the first time to no longer hold true. It’s possible that you’ll need to update your tech stack/tools or that the technology you’re using has just become obsolete. Making sudden shifts to different technologies might be an overwhelming idea and, hence, create an imbalance in the development environment that could lead to unforeseen technical debts.

3. The gap in internal communication:

When an idea isn’t properly documented, it might lead to technical debt. People become perplexed as to how it should have been accomplished and why it should be accomplished. It’s not about playing the blame game or criticizing individuals; it’s about figuring out how to improve human resource management. You’re certain to fall into difficulties with technical debt if you don’t have enough experienced engineers, inadequate communication across remote teams, or resources that don’t just scale.

Don’t know how to code? You can still build apps without depending on IT.

How to manage technical debt?

Managing technical debt requires balancing quality with speed to meet deadlines. Unchecked, it can impair agility, especially when rapid deployment is prioritized or less experienced programmers contribute. Quick fixes may seem efficient but can lead to significant long-term costs. Effective strategies are essential for minimizing and controlling technical debt.

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4 techniques for managing and reducing technical debt

Make sure you constantly take other actions to decrease your technical debt as quickly as you become conscious of it. According to McKinsey, firms who are diligent with technical debt management can lower their TD by 75% to 25%. As a result, you should take action as well! The following are the most popular methods for dealing with technical debt.

1. Recognize your technical debt.

Companies frequently accumulate technical debt without recognizing it, thus becoming an unpleasant issue that creates several problems. The sooner you recognize it, the easier it will be to pay off your technical debt.

2. Determine your level of adoption.

You may have to reach your technology adoption stage based on your level of technical debt. It will almost certainly dictate the strategy for settling technical debt. Here are two strategies to reduce technical debt which are as follows:

  • Replace the entire system. Sometimes, legacy systems are overly complex, and you can’t resolve them by applying patches or addressing only specific problems. It’s a time-consuming and costly procedure, and it’s sometimes the only viable option.
  • Try to refactor in stages (commitment to investing). By focusing on each sprint, you may decrease technical debt using this technique. It may be costly at first, but it will pay off in the long term.

3. Employ agile software development techniques.

Paying off technical debt on a constant schedule every scoot is more helpful in mitigating it. Furthermore, agile software development techniques assist the team in continuously delivering a level of quality in short durations of time. These tasks should be included in the product backlog in agile, which makes monitoring easy.

4. Make an effort to repay your technical debt regularly.

Technical leaders must continually collaborate with stakeholders to incorporate technical debt assessment into the agenda and to plan repair sprints as needed. Be careful to add related jobs to your schedule to avoid them sliding through the gaps and getting forgotten. Technical debt is best managed when it is measured continually.

How does low-code reduce technical debt?

Low-code allows for new ways of thinking. It enables businesses to swiftly develop powerful apps while relieving IT staff of the burden of continuous maintenance, enabling them to focus on the creativity that propels the company ahead. Low-code is a new approach to application development. Instead of writing lines of code, programmers use visual, intent-driven development tools to construct apps. Adopting low-code allows businesses to get rid of their technological debt.

Low-code keeps track of technical debt at every stage of the process: planning, implementation, integration, and maintenance.

1. Low-code facilitates collaboration between business and IT.

Miscommunication between teams is a primary cause of technical debt. Low-Code platforms enhance collaboration, allowing business users to give ongoing feedback during app development. This ensures both business and IT teams align closely, reducing misunderstandings and thereby minimizing technical debt.

2. Low-code reduces the time to build an application while maintaining its power and quality.

Another cause of technical debt is an imbalance between time and quality. The development of low-code applications is up to twenty times faster than conventional development methods. With low code, IT teams can concentrate on creating the best solution while the platform handles the programming.

3. Low-code solves the integration challenge by lowering the expense and maintenance.

When the process is not properly documented and noted down, it results in technical debt. Skilled workers, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotic process automation (RPA), as well as outside tools, legacy software, and data, are all brought together in a single workflow by robust low-code automated platforms that maintain data in a single place. This helps businesses to rapidly and easily connect apps and automate processes, even those that are complicated, which automatically reduces technical debt.

4. Low-code apps are much easier to keep up with.

When apps are launched, they instantly include the most recent UI and security standards and operate on the most recent mobile devices and cloud platforms, thus reducing the need to adapt apps for different settings and software platforms. Low-code apps do not contribute to the pile of technical debt that is overburdening IT departments. Updates, security certifications, legislative inspections, and performance concerns are all managed automatically by the system, simplifying maintenance needs.

Don’t know how to code? You can still build apps without depending on IT.

Why is Kissflow the best option for managing technical debt?

Kissflow streamlines app development from scratch with its tailor-made design options, significantly cutting down development time without compromising quality and thereby reducing technical debt. It supports seamless application deployment across different lifecycle stages without the need for taking down updates for modifications.

Its intuitive drag-and-drop interface allows business users and domain experts to easily transform their ideas into applications, minimizing the strain on IT resources and further decreasing technical debt.

Additionally, Kissflow facilitates easy data integration through drag-and-drop connectors and logical structures, requiring minimal coding and offering reusable integration templates, simplifying the development process even more.

Technical debt won't fix itself. Take action today.