The 3 Types of Technical Debt

You’ve probably heard the term being thrown around in group meetings, tech meetings or just casual conversations with colleagues. Technical debt is everything from the worst thing that can possibly happen to an IT department, to an efficient scare-tactic from outsourcing companies to ensure contracts keep getting prolonged. This is why we wanted to uncover what technical debt is, and what types of technical debt is important for you to be aware of.

What is Technical Debt?

The term technical debt is also known as code debt and design debt. It indicates the cost of additional rework to your application that software developers incur due to quick fixes rather than implementing a more reliable and long-lasting solution. In other words, it is the consequence of choosing the delivery of the speed over ideal code. Technical debt refers to a variety of bugs, missing documentation or legacy code.



How to identify Technical Debt?

  1. Code Smells

“Code Smells” is a disturbance of the software development process. This leads to reducing the quality of the code and therefore increasing the technical debt. Facing code smells does not destroy the software completely. Instead, it slows down its processing time.


A good example of a code smell is code that is being duplicated all over an application. It usually appears when multiple programmers are working on separate parts of the same program at the same time. This leads to an undesirable situation where developers end up writing and rewriting the same code. Duplicated code is considered one of the most damaging code smells. The main reason behind is that it makes the code difficult to maintain. 


  1. Code complexity

Code complexity refers to the number of entities defining a software application, and the number of cooperations between them. Based on many expert’s opinions, complexity is a way to identify technical debt. There are a few reasons why developers end up producing overly complex code: 

  • Sometimes the developers have to deliver the product for a short time and therefore work under pressure. It is accordingly easier to produce a complex and unstructured code instead of a clean and understandable code.
  • The developers are not trained to code quality.
  • There is no organizational process to regulate code complexity and requirements for a clear coding process.

When such a situation occurs, it is difficult to read, reuse and maintain the code.


  1. Lack of documentation

The lack of documentation is another way to identify technical debt. If the documentation is incorrect or out of date, it is difficult to understand the components of the system and therefore make new modifications of the code. It also leads to delays in the software development process because it is complicated for new developers to take over since no guidance is available. 


The 3 Types of Technical Debt?

1. Planned Technical Debt 

This type of technical debt is intentionally created in order to push a specific product to the market faster. The situation is acceptable in case the owner of the product and the development team follow the technical debt carefully.   


When generating technical debt purposely, the organisations have to consider the consequences. For instance, how will they manage if the technical debt influences the reliability of the product, its future development or the impossibility of launching new features in the future. Are the advantages worth the risk?


A good example of planned technical debt could be a situation where a company has to launch a product within a very short period of time. Therefore, they decide to skip writing unit tests for faster implementation of the project and write the tests after the release.


If doing so, it is important to record these decisions. Otherwise, it will potentially be forgotten and may lead to huge obstacles down the line. 


2. Unintentional Technical Debt 

Unintentional Technical Debt refers to errors due to poor practices such as bad coding, weak communication within the team or differently designed components of an application. Therefore, it is crucial for organisations to avoid technical debt as it may cost problems for the software product in the future. Reviews, training and static analysis are some of the good engineering practices to prevent it. Furthermore, test automation can be used to determine the risk instantly when the code is written. 


3. Unavoidable Technical Debt

There are situations at which technical debt is not caused by factors within the control of the development teams and organisations at itself. It usually refers to changes in the business and development of technology. Good examples are an upgrade of a third-party system or an improvement of a coding language.


In the worst-case scenario, changes are requested during an already initiated project. For instance, including a new feature to an existing design to support the mobile version. Therefore, it increases an instant cost.


In order to avoid the appearance of this technical debt, organisations need to make their systems and codebase simple. In this case, if new implementations are required, it will prevent rework and hence save cost for further product development.



Now you have a piece of knowledge of what technical debt is, how to identify it and the 3 main types of it. However, the theoretical experience its not always enough. Hence, we at Wiredelta are here to help, providing the latest technologies and architecture solutions! Don’t hesitate to contact us for any further assistance.


Success stories

In the past decade we have launched over 100 websites and more than 20 mobile apps, helping each of our client get closer to their digital goals.

Executive Global

Connecting executives around the world in one of the largest professional networks

Philip Morris

Working together towards a smoke-free future for the Nordics.


Denmark’s largest wish cloud is going global with a brand new look and a lot of new features

How can we bring you value?