How do you know if you’re in technical debt? (and how to get out of it)

Technical debt is common. In fact, the average organisation spends 23%–42% of its development time on clearing technical debt, which is effectively the re-working of solutions when quick fixes have failed. 

In the know 

Debt is usually accumulated over time. For many companies, the first hint of a deficit emerges when the system breaks, which will always put a business on the back foot –

wasting time, money, and opportunities to innovate.

On the flip side some startup companies are aware of and are comfortable with their technical debt, and expect to build this up in the early days, with a view to ‘paying it off’ later, as they prioritise getting their product to market. What is critical in this scenario is that they are in control of their debt – not the other way around.

Practical advice on avoiding debt

  • Think about where the system might be in six-, 12-, or 24-months’ time, and write your code appropriately. It’s not an exact science, but if code has been written to accept changes more easily then it will be simpler to update.
  • Ensure you are writing your code in a consistent manner. If multiple developers put their own style in the code, it can be difficult for a new developer to add value quickly.
  • Stick to modern software principles, such as SOLID.
  • Ensure a code review process is followed, or practice pair programming from time to time.
  • Look to release changes to production as quickly as possible. This will force you to think about continuous improvement to the system.
  • Don’t take the quickest and easiest option all the time – take your time to flesh out how the system should work. You will reap the rewards in the long run.
  • Establish where your company sits on the technology spectrum – is it ‘technology now,’ ‘technology forward,’ or ‘technology future.’ Knowing this will help you define the right strategy for managing or avoiding technical debt.
  • There are automated tools to figure out where code ‘hot spots’ are. These hot spots are usually complex areas of code that have evolved over a long time. Tools such as SonarCloud and Snyk scan source code and its dependencies to provide an idea of how much debt has been acquired. 

Change is the only constant

Standing still not only creates technical debt but also prevents businesses from evolving and growing. The key to moving forward is understanding and acting on a business’s key tech challenges, the most common being:

  • Keeping up with constant change 
  • Balancing new and existing software 
  • Making the technology accessible and user-friendly for an entire organisation 

Propel Tech works closely with clients across many sectors, from manufacturing and automotive to real estate and retail, to mitigate risk, such as technical debt, and maximise technology’s role in creating value. Discover where your business sits on the ‘technical spectrum’ with Propel Tech’s free online assessment. Are you a ‘technology now, ’‘technology forward,’ or a ‘technology future’ company?

Startup Details

Startup Details


Propel Tech

Propel Tech is a software development company that provides application maintenance, cloud consulting, and software testing services.

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    United Kingdom
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