What Is Technical Debt? A Complete Guide

You buy the latest iPhone on credit. Turn to fast car loan services to get yourself those wheels you’ve been eyeing for a while. Take out a mortgage to realise your dream of being a homeowner. Regardless of the motive, the common denominator is going into financial debt to achieve something today, and pay it off in future, with interest. The final cost will be higher than the loan value that you took out in the first place. However, debt is not limited to the financial world.

Technical Debt Definition

Technical debt – which is also referred to as code debt, design debt or tech debt – is the result of the development team taking shortcuts in the code to release a product today, which will need to be fixed later on. The quality of the code takes a backseat to issues like market forces, such as when there’s pressure to get a product out there to beat a deadline, front-run the competition, or even calm jittery consumers. Creating perfect code would take time, so the team opts for a compromised version, which they will come back later to resolve. It’s basically using a speedy temporary fix instead of waiting for a more comprehensive solution whose development would be slower.

How rampant is it? 25% of the development time in large software organisations is actually spent dealing with tech debt, according to a multiple case study of 15 organizations. “Large” here means organizations with over 250 employees. It is estimated that global technical debt will cost companies $4 trillion by 2024.

Is there interest on technical debt?

When you take out a mortgage or service a car loan, the longer that it takes to clear it the higher the interest will be. A similar case applies to technical debt. In the rush to release the software, it comes with problems like bugs in the code, incompatibility with some applications that would need it, absent documentation, and other issues that pop up over time. This will affect the usability of the product, slow down operations – and even grind systems to a halt, costing your business. Here’s the catch: just like the financial loan, the longer that one takes before resolving the issues with rushed software, the greater the problems will pile up, and more it will take to rectify and implement changes. This additional rework that will be required in future is the interest on the technical debt.

Reasons For Getting Into Technical Debt

In the financial world, there are good and bad reasons for getting into debt. Taking a loan to boost your business cashflow or buy that piece of land where you will build your home – these are understandable. Buying an expensive umbrella on credit because ‘it will go with your outfit‘ won’t win you an award for prudent financial management. This also applies to technical debt.

There are situations where product delivery takes precedence over having completely clean code, such as for start-ups that need their operations to keep running for the brand to remain relevant, a fintech app that consumers rely on daily, or situations where user feedback is needed for modifications to be made to the software early. On the other hand, incurring technical debt because the design team chooses to focus on other products that are more interesting, thus neglecting the software and only releasing a “just-usable” version will be a bad reason.

Some of the common reasons for technical debt include:

  • Inadequate project definition at the start – Where failing to accurately define product requirements up-front leads to software development that will need to be reworked later
  • Business pressure – Here the business is under pressure to release a product, such as an app or upgrade quickly before the required changes to the code are completed.
  • Lacking a test suite – Without the environment to exhaustively check for bugs and apply fixes before the public release of a product, more resources will be required later to resolve them as they arise.
  • Poor collaboration – From inadequate communication amongst the different product development teams and across the business hierarchy, to junior developers not being mentored properly, these will contribute to technical debt with the products that are released.
  • Lack of documentation – Have you launched code without its supporting documentation? This is a debt that will need to be fulfilled.
  • Parallel development – This is seen when working on different sections of a product in isolation which will, later on, need to be merged into a single source. The greater the extent of modification on an individual branch – especially when it affects its compatibility with the rest of the code, the higher the technical debt.
  • Skipping industrial standards – If you fail to adhere to industry-standard features and technologies when developing the product, there will be technical debt because you will eventually need to rework the product to align with them for it to continue being relevant.
  • Last-minute product changes – Incorporating changes that hadn’t been planned for just before its release will affect the future development of the product due to the checks, documentation and modifications that will be required later on

Types of Technical Debt

There are various types of technical debt, and this will largely depend on how you look at it.

  • Intentional technical debt – which is the debt that is consciously taken on as a strategy in the business operations.
  • Unintentional technical debt – where the debt is non-strategic, usually the consequences of a poor job being done.

This is further expounded in the Technical Debt Quadrant” put forth by Martin Fowler, which attempts to categorise it based on the context and intent:

Technical Debt Quadrant

Source: MartinFowler.com

Final thoughts

Technical debt is common, and not inherently bad. Just like financial debt, it will depend on the purpose that it has been taken up, and plans to clear it. Start-ups battling with pressure to launch their products and get ahead, software companies that have cut-throat competition to deliver fast – development teams usually find themselves having to take on technical debt instead of waiting to launch the products later. In fact, nearly all of the software products in use today have some sort of technical debt.

But no one likes being in debt. Actually, technical staff often find themselves clashing with business executives as they try to emphasise the implications involved when pushing for product launch before the code is completely ready. From a business perspective, it’s all about weighing the trade-offs, when factoring in aspects such as the aspects market situation, competition and consumer needs. So, is technical debt good or bad? It will depend on the context. Look at it this way: just like financial debt, it is not a problem as long as it is manageable. When you exceed your limits and allow the debt to spiral out of control, it can grind your operations to a halt, with the ripple effects cascading through your business.

 

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Energy Management Tips

Energy management is of interest to various stakeholders; be it heads of facilities, heads of procurement, heads of environment and sustainability, financial officers, renewable energy managers and heads of energy. Some of the energy management tips that can be used to achieve considerable energy savings are:

1) Purchasing energy supplies at the lowest possible price

2) Managing energy use at peak efficiency

3) Utilising the most appropriate technology

1. Purchasing energy supplies at the lowest possible price
Purchasing energy supplies at the lowest possible price could be the starting point to great savings of energy costs. This can be achieved through switching your energy supplier. It is always advisable for companies to always take time to compare the energy tariffs to ensure they are on the best tariff and make great savings.

2. Managing energy use at peak efficiency

(a) Free help

There are some online tools that offer energy-efficiency improvements. These could come in handy in helping someone find out where to make energy-efficiency improvements.

(b) Energy monitors

An energy monitor is a gadget that estimate in real time how much energy you’re using. This can help one see where to cut back on energy consumption.

(c) Turning down thermostats

Turning down radiators especially in rooms that are rarely used/empty rooms or programming the heating to turn off when no one is there can go a long way in saving energy and energy costs.

(d) Use energy saving bulbs

Use of energy-saving light bulbs can cut down on energy usage drastically. Replacing all the light bulbs with energy-saving ones could make significant savings on energy usage and replacement costs since energy saving bulbs also have a longer life.

(e) Switching off unnecessary lights

It is also important to switch off lights that are not in use and to use the best bulb for the size of room.

(f) Sealing all heat escape routes

It is recommended that all gaps should be sealed in order to stop heat from escaping. Some of the heat escape routes are: windows, doors, chimneys and fireplaces, floorboards and skirting and loft hatches. The ways through which this can be achieved are:

? Windows- use of draught-proofing strips around the frame, brush strips work better for sash windows

? Doors – use of draught-proofing strips for gaps around the edges and brush or hinged-flap draught excluders on the bottom of doors

? Chimney and fireplace – inflatable cushions can be used to block the chimney or fit a cap over the chimney pot on fireplaces that are not used often

? Floorboards and skirting – Using a flexible silicon-based filler to fill the gaps

? Loft hatches – the use of draught-proofing strips can help to prevent hot air escaping
It is also important to consider smaller holes of air such as keyholes and letterboxes.

3. Utilising the most appropriate technology
Utilisation of technology as an energy management tool can be by way of choosing more energy efficient gadgets and by way of running technological gadgets in an energy efficient manner.

Saving Energy Step 5 – Bringing it together

We hope you have been enjoying our series of short posts regarding saving energy, so what we use we can sustain. We have tried to make a dry subject interesting. After you read this post please comment, and tell us how it went. We are in the environment together. As the man who wrote ?No Man is an Island? said, ?if a clod be washed away somewhere by the sea, Europe is the less? and Europe was his entire world.

The 4 Steps we wrote about previously have a multiplier effect when we harness them together

  1. Having a management system diffuses office politics and pins accountability in a way that not even a worm could wriggle
  2. This defines the boundaries for senior managers and empowers them to implement practical improvements with confidence
  3. The results feed back into lower energy bills: this convinces the organisation that more is possible
  4. This dream filters through all levels of the organisation, as a natural team forms to make work and home a better place.

None of this would be possible without measuring energy consumption throughout the process, converting this into meaningful analytics, and playing ?what-if? scenarios against each other to determine where to start.

The 5th Step to Energy Saving that brings the other four together can double the individual benefits as innovative power flows between them. The monetary savings are impressive and provide capital to go even further. Why not allow us to help you manage what we measure together.

ecoVaro turns your numbers into meaningful analytics, makes suggestions, and stays with you so we can quantify your savings as you make them. We should talk about this soon.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 6 – Role of Lead Assessor

The primary role of the lead assessor is to make sure the enterprise?s assessment meets ESOS requirements. Their contribution is mandatory, with the only exception being where 100% of energy consumption received attention in an ISO 50001 that forms the basis of the ESOS report.

How to Find a Lead Assessor

An enterprise subject to ESOS must negotiate with a lead assessor with the necessary specialisms from one of the panels approved by the UK government. This can be a person within the organisation or an third party. If independent, then only one director of the enterprise need countersign the assessment report. If an employee, then two signatures are necessary. Before reaching a decision, consider

  • Whether the person has auditing experience in the sector
  • Whether they are familiar with the technology and the processes
  • Whether they have experience of auditing against a standard

The choice rests on the enterprise itself. The lead assessor performs the appointed role.

The Lead Assessor?s Role

The Lead Assessor?s main job is reviewing an ESOS assessment prepared by others against the standard, and deciding whether it meets the requirements. They may also contribute towards it. Typically their role includes:

  • Checking the calculation for total energy consumption across the entire enterprise
  • Reviewing the process whereby the 90% areas of significant consumption were identified
  • Confirming that certifications are in place for all alternate routes to compliance chosen
  • Checking that the audit reports meet the minimum criteria laid down by the ESOS system

Note: A lead assessor may partly prepare the assessment themselves, or simply verify that others did it correctly.

In the former instance a lead assessor might

  • Determine energy use profiles
  • Identify savings opportunities
  • Calculate savings measures
  • Present audit findings
  • Determine future methodology
  • Define sampling methods
  • Develop audit timetables
  • Establish site visit programs
  • Assemble ESOS information pack

Core Enterprise Responsibilities

The enterprise cannot absolve itself from responsibility for good governance. Accordingly, it remains liable for

  • Ensuring compliance with ESOS requirements
  • Selecting and appointing the lead assessor
  • Drawing attention to previous audit work
  • Agreeing with what the lead assessor does
  • Requesting directors to sign the assessment

The Environment Agency does not provide assessment templates as it believes this reduces the administrative burden on the enterprises it serves.

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