2020 Approach On How to Measure Technical Debt

It’s no secret that any badly designed software comes with flaws that can snowball into ‘technical debts’. By definition, technical debt is the rectification needed to complete any software. This is the extra bit of effort that slows down the development & puts budgetary pressure, which is why it’s termed as a ‘debt’. Today, more CIOs & CEOs are interested in minimizing the cost of development by measuring technical debt. But how do you actually do it? In the same vein, this article explores ways in which your company can minimize ‘cruft’ & work more comfortably within the constraints of your budget.

What Causes Technical Debt?

  • Absence of Analysis

Any code that isn’t maintained by way of rigorous testing will inevitably lead to entropy. There’s a reason why successful programmers always have a plethora of testing tools to screen out any errors in the beginning. Regular procedural testing helps to nip any defects in the bud. On the other hand, smoke testing allows companies to preemptively reject a proposal in the earliest stages of a software release. Something in between is a situation when a product manager has some technical knowledge and tries to manage product backlog items on his own. That can cause scrum components getting ignored and follow up project rush and technical debt accumulation.

  • Code Bloating

This happens due to inefficiencies caused by long, redundant code. Half-hearted or sloppy changes can prove to be reasons of concern if you’re managing large teams. You should also carry out careful code refactoring, preferably only when necessary. Not to mention good OOP practices always entail minimizing code bloat.

  • No Documentation                                                             

This is the cardinal sin that any programmer can commit. Without any knowledge of previous commits or code changes, there’s no way any coder can diagnose/resolve problems on their own. Having comprehensive documentation is one of the chief pillars of sound software development practices.

Quantifying Technical Debt

The first step towards reducing technical debt is to know how to compute it. How do you measure debt in the financial world? Divide up the total debt by the number of assets, right? Calculating debt for software works in the same way. By a rule of thumb, you simply divide the total amount of reparation costs by the development cost incurred. Nowadays, you can find tons of code analysis tools that can do the math for you when it comes to measuring code debt.

Seasoned developers strive to keep design debt close to 5 percent, although this can vary a lot from company to company.

Measuring design debt can involve a wide range of factors, but we’ll keep things basic here. Primarily, there are two factors involved:

  • Hours Spent Per Project
  • Code Quality

Hours Per Project

This becomes more difficult if the company employs a large workforce. By contrast, if you’re about to calculate code debt for a small scale company, you could start with measuring time spent on coding in minutes or seconds. For this, you can factor in things like time spent on compiling code or app’s startup time. On the whole, it’s important not to get caught up in details that’ll make you miss the bigger picture.

Code Quality

You can browse a list of tools that can help you with doing formal code analysis of your project. It’s important to do this on the regular to prevent any mistakes that can become a bigger hindrance in the future. It’s imperative that you make use of these tools from the get-go to observe good software design practices.


All in all, technical debt can be reduced if your code is maintained cautiously & errors are weeded out as frequently as possible on the go. You should know that it’s quite common to encounter technical debt at some point during your project. However, what’s important is how you respond to it. Do you have your own personal strategy to go about resolving code debt? Please share with us in the comments below.