8 Best Practices To Reduce Technical Debt

When past actions in software development return to haunt you…

Is your business being bogged down by technical debt? Let’s look at measures that you can take to reduce it and scale your operations without the weight pulling you back. 

 

Work with a flexible architecture.

Right from the word go, you want to use architecture whose design is malleable, especially with the rapid rate of software evolution witnessed today. Going with an architecture that keeps calling for too much refactoring, or whose design won’t accommodate future changes will leave you with costly technical debt. Use scalable architecture that allows you to modify or add new features in future releases. While on this, complex features required in the final product should be discussed at the planning stage, that way simplified solutions that will be easier to implement can be identified, as this will lead to less technical debt in the long run. 

 

The Deal with Refactoring 

This is basically cleaning up the code structure without changing its behaviour. With the updates, patches, and new functionalities that are added to the systems and applications, each change comes with the threat of more technical debt. Additionally, organisations are increasingly moving their IT infrastructure from on-premises facilities to colocation data centres and deploying them on the cloud. In such scenarios, some workarounds are often needed to enable the systems to function in the new environments, which they hadn’t been initially developed to accommodate. Here, you will need to take some time to refactor the existing system regularly, streamlining the code and optimizing its performance – and this will be key to pay down the tech debt. When working with a flexible architecture from the start, the amount of work that goes into this will be reduced, meaning there’ll be less tech debt involved. 

 

Run discovery tests

Discovery testing essentially takes place even before a line of code is written for the system or application. This takes place at the product definition stage, where human insight software is used to understand the needs of the customer and is particularly helpful in setting priorities for the development work that will be carried out. It gives your business the opportunity to minimize the technical debt by allowing customers to give you a roadmap of the most pertinent features desired from the product. 

 

Routine code review

Getting a fresh look at the product or application from different sets of eyes in the development team will improve the quality of the code, thus reducing technical debt. There’s a catch though – this should be planned in a convenient way that doesn’t end up becoming a burden for the developers. Here are suggestions:

Break down pull requests

Instead of having complex pull requests where numerous changes in the code are introduced at a go, have this broken down into smaller manageable pull requests, each with a brief title and description about it. This will be easier for the code reviewer to analyse. 

● Define preferred coding practices

Documenting the preferred coding style will result in cleaner code, meaning the developers will focus their effort on reviewing the code itself, not losing time on code format debates.

 

Test automation

Relying only on scheduled manual testing opens you up to the risk of technical debt accruing rapidly, and not having sufficient resources to deal with the accumulated problems when they are identified. Automated testing on the other hand enables issues to be uncovered quicker, and with more precision. For instance, you can have automated unit tests that look at the functioning of the individual components of a system, or regression testing where the focus is on whether the code changes that have been implemented have affected related components of the system. However, establishing and maintaining automated testing will require quite some effort – making it more feasible for the long-term projects.

 

Keep a repository that tracks changes made

Do you have a record of changes made in the software? Keeping one in a repository that is accessible by the development team will make it easy to pin-point problems at their source. For instance, when software is being migrated to a new environment, or legacy software is in the process of being modernised, you will want to have an accurate record of changes that are being introduced, that way if there is an undesired impact on the system this it will be easier to zero-down on the cause.

 

Bring non-technical stakeholders on board

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Development Team: “We need to refactor the messy code quickly”

Product Team: “We have no idea what you are saying”

On one hand, you have the management or product team defining the product requirements, creating a project roadmap, and setting its milestones. On the other hand, there’s the software development/engineering that’s primarily focused on the product functionality, technical operations and clearing the backlog in code fixes. Poor communication between the two teams is actually a leading cause of technical debt.

For you to take concrete steps in managing your technical debt, the decision-makers in the organisation should understand its significance, and the necessity of reducing it. Explain to them how the debt occurred and why steps need to be taken to pay it down – but you can’t just bombard them with tech phrases and expect them to follow your thought process. 

So how do you go about it? Reframe the issues involved with the technical debt and explain the business value or impact of the code changes. Basically, the development team should approach it from a business point of view, and educate the management or production team about the cost of the technical debt. This can include aspects such as expenses in changing the code, salaries for the software engineers especially when the development team will need to be increased due to the workload piling up, as well as the revenue that is lost when the technical debt is allowed to spiral. 

The goal here is to show the management or production team how issues like failing to properly define the product requirements will slow down future software development, or how rushing the code will affect the next releases. That way, there will be better collaboration between the teams involved in the project. 

 

Allocate time and resources specifically for reducing technical debt

With management understanding that working with low-quality code is just like incurring financial debt and it will slow down product development, insist on setting time to deal with the debt. 

For instance, when it comes to the timing of application releases, meetings can be conducted to review short- and longer-term priorities. These meetings – where the development team and product team or management are brought together, the developers point out the software issues that should be resolved as a priority as they may create more technical debt. Management then ensures that budgets and plans are put in place to explicitly deal with those ongoing maintenance costs.

 

Retire old platforms

While most of the resources are going into developing new applications and improving the systems being used, the organisation should also focus on retiring the old applications, libraries, platforms, and the code modules. It’s recommended that you factor this into the application release plans, complete with the dates, processes and costs for the systems involved. 

 

Total overhaul

When the cost and effort of dealing with the technical debt far outweighs the benefits, then you may have to replace the entire system. At this tipping point, you’re not getting value from the technical debt, and it has become a painful issue that’s causing your organisation lots of difficulties. For instance, you may be dealing with legacy software where fixing it to support future developments has simply become too complicated. The patches available may only resolve specific issues with the system, and still leave you with lots of technical debt. Here, the best way out is to replace the system in its entirety. 

 

Final thoughts

Every software company has some level of tech debt. Just like financial debt, it is useful when properly managed, and a problem when ignored or allowed to spiral out of control. It’s a tradeoff between design/development actions and business goals. By taking measures to pay down your organization’s debt and address its interest as it accrues, you will avoid situations where short term solutions undermine your long-term goals. This is also key to enable your business to transition to using complex IT solutions easier, and even make the migration between data centres much smoother. These 8 measures will enable you to manage your technical debt better to prevent it from being the bottleneck that stifles your growth.

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Virtualisation

Using an IT solution that can provide the fastest (but still reliable) disaster recovery process is essential for the success of any business continuity plan. Although virtualisation is still considered leading edge technology by many business continuity specialists, it definitely brings a promise that, once fulfilled, can result in the cheapest, fastest, and most comprehensive solution for business continuity.

One great advantage of virtualisation over traditional BC (Business Continuity) methods is the relatively cheaper cost needed to achieve a certain level of business continuity assurance. Thus, more companies will find it easier to reach their required minimum for BC assurance. By contrast, some BCPs (Business Continuity Plan) based on a physical environment require companies to invest more than what they are willing to in order to reach the same minimum level of assurance.

Virtual machines, which can already encapsulate your operating systems and their corresponding applications, can be transported as a file from one machine running a compatible hypervisor to another. This makes the business continuity tasks of backup, replication, and restoration simpler and faster.

As of 2008, about 54% of IT professionals in Europe were willing to implement virtualisation within a maximum of two years. Furthermore, the expected compound annual growth rate of installed virtualised servers from 2008 to 2012 is already pegged at 33%.

If you want your organisation to take advantage of the benefits of this revolutionary technology, we’d be more than willing to help you discover what it can do for you. Then once you decide to make that transition to virtualisation, we can guide you every step of the way.

  • As not all applications are suited for virtualisation (e.g. some are too demanding on I/O and memory access), we’ll start by reviewing your entire IT system to see which portions can be implemented on a virtualized environment.
  • Using virtualisation and replication, we can conduct disaster recovery tests using up-to-date data without interrupting operations in your main IT site. Running these tests will increase your team’s preparedness and will allow you to discover possible weak points.
  • Provide a simple but comprehensive protection and backup system that encapsulates not only data, but also system configurations and application installations. This kind of setup allows for faster and easier disaster recovery operations. Because of these same characteristics, you can enjoy zero downtime while performing scheduled maintenance operations.
  • Since virtual machines are hardware-independent and transparent to operating systems, we can help you run a mix of legacy and new systems as well as open source and proprietary systems, allowing for more flexibility in your BCP budgeting.

We can also assist you with the following:

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Fine-tuning your Operations and keeping our staff Happy with FieldElite

They are the engine that drives your operations, but are you really giving you value for your money? How much time is spent by your personnel on lengthy paperwork and record-keeping, as opposed to actually providing the service to your customers? Manual tasks create bottlenecks and slow your operations, which in turn affects service delivery and customer satisfaction. You want to reach more clients and boost your brand image, growing your market share and generating more revenue. Field Service Management (FSM) software comes in optimise the operations of your mobile workforce, cut down resource wastage, and enhance your productivity as a firm, by actually enabling your field staff to get more done, thus achieving their individual goals. In fact, according to a report published by Fortune Business Insights?, the global FSM market- which stood at $2.29 billion as recently as 2018, will have expanded to $7.27 billion by 2026. What does this mean for your employees, and how do they benefit from FieldElite?

  • Skipping the paperwork with end-to-end automation

Filing reports, keeping track of equipment used, working on the Excel sheets for multiple jobs on a daily basis, all through to the routing and billing- it can be a logistical nightmare. It’s not just about the hours spent poring through documents and typing away at calculators. Manual work exposes you to the risks of human error. Missing records, inaccurate assessments of the situation on the ground due to the overwhelming data streaming in, putting the head office staff under strain- it all hampers the productivity of the company. 

Take scheduling for instance. You have different employees, and various jobs that need their attention, at different locations. It can be a plumbing company whose clients have water filters that need to be repaired, gas boilers inspected, leaking pipes fixed, and others who need new installations to be set up. Assigning your personnel to the different situations will need to take into account the type of job, and the amount of time that it will require, aspects such as the location and the crew that is closest to it. At the head office you will want to keep tabs on the jobs that are in progress, pending, complete, those on hold, and even those that have been cancelled. Running all these through traditional manual processes is enough to drive you to the edge. What’s more, tasks that slip through your fingers amidst the confusion will result in negative feedback from your customers- which you don’t want hitting your brand.

With a field service job management software like FieldELite, you get to handle it all from one dashboard. Optimise your service delivery using the accurate scheduler, that allows you to account for the location of your employees, the status of the job- from the urgent ones like emergency tasks, to the normal duties such as routine maintenance, and low-priority tasks. The field service scheduling software comes with a real-time location feature that allows you to determine the employees closest to the client’s premises who will be appropriate for the job, map out the service areas and give you a birds-eye view of all the operations on the ground, while being updated with the progress of each specific task. Less time is spent travelling to- and from the central office, and more on actually tending to your client’s needs. You can even have situations where you can assign end-of-day tasks to employees who will be passing on that route on their way home.

  • Enhanced resource utilisation that promotes personal and professional development

Skill is key across the industries- from electrical services, solar panel installation, landscaping, home remodelling, pest control, plumbing, HVAC system maintenance, to construction and property management. For the job to be done appropriately and make your clients happy, you want to assign the task to an employee who is particularly proficient at it. This tends to be glimpsed over during manual scheduling since the personnel at the head office will be swamped with so many files, and will pick the first one that comes close to fitting the job description, leading to overlapping of roles. Sure, they may get it done, having seen their colleagues do it and even helping them out when they worked together before on similar projects- but will it be up to the required standard? On the other hand, the FSM allows you to ensure that you get the right technician for the task- who will be more motivated, boosting their performance.

What about accidents? Your employees want to feel safe as they go about their mandate. Many of the field service jobs are hazardous- such as electrical repair jobs, window cleaning tasks at high rise buildings, to elevator repair jobs where a slight glitch can lead to severe ramifications. Field service management software also comes in handy here, where the head office can be notified of any emergency the moment it occurs, and arrange for the necessary action to be taken immediately. That way, your employees will not feel neglected while they are out in the field, showing them that their safety is a priority to your business- which in turn increases their morale. 

  • Readily available knowledgebase and feedback system

When the employees have been assigned a specific job, they will require certain information about it. This includes the scope of the task, history of previous repairs or maintenance that was carried out, accompanying images if needed, risk assessment, any hazards or contaminants that they will need to prepare for, to notes left by technicians who had handled it. Having to keep checking their email, or picking up documents at the office for the day’s job and walking around with them all day as they tend to one customer after another, will slow things down, and not to mention frustrate them. However, the FSM system is directly accessible by the employees via app on their phones. The information needed for each specific task will thus be at their fingertips, speeding up the process and ensuring that they will be ready for each project being handled. 

While carrying out the job itself, the employees will use the very same app to update the system on how it is progressing, chat with the staff at the head office, update the inventory and even place orders for extra parts if necessary. Since mobile service management software apps like FieldElite also work in offline mode, the photos, reports and other entries that are made are collected by the app and saved on the device. Once a network connection is established, they are then updated to the central database- thus ensuring that the job can proceed regardless of the location. 

Once the job is completed, the customer input is also taken, registered in the system through their e-signature. A signoff comment included gives the customer the opportunity to indicate their experience with the job, and the feedback that they would like to provide. In case the job has not been completed, then the scheduling software kicks in, putting it in queue for another appointment to take care of the task, or resolve the issue that had caused it not to be completed the first time. The completed tasks head right to invoicing, which is also handled within the field service management platform, making it a seamless task for the head office staff.

Be pound poor and become Penny rich

Energy management is and should be perceived as a long-term investment by organisations. Having said this, the need for all organisations to implement energy management strategies now cannot be overstated as these strategies will save their costs of running the business in future.

Many organisations may shy off from implementing energy efficiency measures in place opting to save the associated costs or to use the cash for other projects that may be perceived as high priority in the short run. This is most likely to occur when cost cutting is a priority. Long-term planning is however critical for energy efficiency programs. Taking steps to improve building management and energy efficiency will and does pay dividends in the near-term and may be a competitive tool in the long-term.

Be energy smart
All energy management projects begin with being energy smart which calls for the understanding of energy usage. Use of Smart Meters that give real time readings of energy usage, can dramatically help businesses understand the benefit which energy management brings to the organisation.

Smart meters also cut the amount of time businesses spend on administration by allowing them to pay accurate bills, based on accurate readings. Some suppliers also support businesses to identify areas of energy wastage/inefficiency and help setting targets for energy reduction that guide behavioural change with regard to energy in the organisation.

Use of technologies that record the energy usage at the water or electricity meters putting data into a system where the users can graph it has made it easy to compare energy consumption in various departments, sites or buildings. Appropriate measures can then be implemented to improve the efficiency.

Partnerships between businesses and energy suppliers
Since the long-term benefits of reduced energy consumption is beneficial to both suppliers and consumers; the responsibility of managing energy consumption is being taken by both. Businesses should work with the suppliers on cost reduction strategies through identifying areas where energy is being wasted and advising businesses on how to save energy. Of key importance when choosing an energy supplier therefore is their depth of understanding of a business’ energy management needs.

Capitalise on government incentives
Businesses should always explore varied financing mechanisms for their energy efficiency programs e.g. government schemes generating electricity and selling it to the grid.

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