Thoughtworks Guide to Technical Debt:

Identify, manage and overcome: A guide to Technical Debt

Do you have a sneaking suspicion that there's a hidden danger lurking in your codebase, just waiting to spring a nasty surprise on your business? Well, you're not alone. Technical debt is a ticking time bomb that can significantly expose your company to risk if left unaddressed. So, why do we let it accumulate?

From architecture and user experience debt to code and process debt, there are many different types of technical debt. To effectively manage and reduce it, you need to understand these different types and assess your own unique vulnerabilities. By adopting a proactive approach and aligning your business goals with the long-term success and competitiveness of your software systems, you can effectively manage technical debt.

Don't wait until it's too late. Download our Guide to Technical Debt for the best practices on how you can identify, manage, and overcome this lurking danger in your codebase. Get ahead of the game and ensure the long-term success of your business.

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Recognizing and addressing technical debt is essential for the long-term prosperity of your software projects and the organization as a whole. Unmanaged technical debt can negatively impact not only specific projects but also overall organizational efficiency and growth. That’s why assessing and strategizing for technical debt is a crucial investment in your software and company's future.

Uprooting technical debt: Categories, cases and causes

Just as an overgrown garden left untended becomes a tangled, impenetrable mess, unmanaged technical debt can gradually overwhelm a software project (and organization), making it increasingly difficult to maintain, let alone evolve and grow. 

And much like the invasive species found in a garden, there is more than one variety of technical debt. This infographic identifies the various forms of technical debt— including architectural, code, test, documentation and more— providing clear definitions, examples and causes of each.

Download our in-depth guide, "Identify, manage and overcome: A Guide to Technical Debt," and equip your organization with the knowledge and tactics necessary to ensure that their software systems are scalable, maintainable, and able to meet the changing needs of the business and the customers they serve.

Architectural debt
results from suboptimal design choices that impair system maintainability and scalability, often caused by hasty decisions or lack of foresight, such as an inefficient database structure affecting performance.

Code debt

involves untidy or complex code that reduces readability and maintainability, typically arising from inadequate refactoring or shortcuts, like using large, monolithic functions instead of modular components.

Technical decision debt

arises from suboptimal development choices requiring future rework, often due to constraints like time, budget, or lack of expertise, as in opting for a less suitable technology based on familiarity.

Test debt

occurs when test coverage is inadequate or tests are outdated, decreasing confidence in code reliability, often due to time constraints or resource limitations, as seen in missing unit tests for crucial components.

Documentation debt

is characterized by insufficient or outdated documentation, hindering knowledge transfer and prolonging onboarding time, often resulting from neglecting updates, as in missing or outdated API documentation.

Infrastructure debt

emerges from outdated or inefficient infrastructure that hampers performance and scalability, often stemming from delayed updates or insufficient investment, such as using outdated hardware or not utilizing cloud services.

Process debt

refers to inefficient or outdated processes that obstruct
productivity and collaboration, often caused by resistance to change or lack of improvement initiatives, like manually deploying code instead of using CI/CD pipelines.

Culture debt

encompasses an unhealthy work culture affecting employee morale, productivity, and retention, typically resulting from poor leadership, communication, or recognition, leading to toxic environments with excessive overtime and no work-life balance.

UX debt

involves user experience issues impacting product usability and user satisfaction, often caused by neglecting user feedback or rushing design, exemplified by confusing and frustrating navigation designs.

Security debt

includes system vulnerabilities or weaknesses exposing it to potential attacks, often caused by inadequate security practices or outdated software, such as unpatched flaws or weak password policies.

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