What Is Technical Debt?

Technical debt example

In the fast-paced world of software development, understanding and managing technical debt is paramount for long-term success. What is technical debt? It’s the “debt” that arises from choosing quick solutions in software development, causing hidden costs. 

Unaddressed, technical debt impedes innovation and escalates project timelines. It affects cost, growth, and competitiveness. Proactive strategies involve planning, regular reviews, and external perspectives. As an IT service provider, TenHats helps efficiently manage and erase technical debt for businesses.

Understanding Technical Debt

Technical debt refers to the cumulative consequences of choosing a quick and easy solution to software development problems. It arises when developers prioritize rapid delivery over long-term efficiency, resulting in suboptimal code or design.

In some ways, technical debt is like skipping too many days at the gym. It’s the easy choice now, but it will have consequences down the road. 

Hidden costs of technical debt include: 

  • Increased maintenance efforts 
  • Reduced agility 
  • A higher likelihood of introducing bugs 


If not accounted for, technical debt can: 

  • Impede innovation 
  • Hinder future development 
  • Escalate project timelines and costs


As an inherent part of software development, even businesses that believe they have minimal technical debt often harbor some. Tight deadlines, evolving project requirements, and the need for quick iterations can all contribute to accumulating technical debt.

Dealing with technical debt promptly is crucial since, like financial debt, it accrues interest over time. The longer it lasts, the more expensive and challenging it becomes to fix. Addressing technical debt early on: 

  • Ensures a more stable foundation for future development 
  • Reduces the risk of system failures 
  • Results in a more efficient and cost-effective software ecosystem 


By eradicating technical debt, you’re investing in the sustainability and long-term success of your business’s technical infrastructure.

Examples of Technical Debt

Code Duplication 

Copying and pasting code instead of creating reusable components can lead to increased maintenance efforts. When a change is needed, it has to be made in multiple places, increasing the likelihood of errors.

Obsolete Dependencies 

Using outdated third-party libraries may save time initially. Unfortunately, it can result in security vulnerabilities and compatibility issues over time. Updating these libraries becomes a time-consuming task.

Lack of Documentation 

Inadequate documentation makes it difficult for developers to understand and modify code. This can lead to mistakes, longer debugging times, and challenges for new team members trying to understand the system.

Unscalable Solutions 

A hastily designed database schema may lead to performance issues and difficulties in adapting to changing business requirements. Refactoring the database structure later on can be complex and time-consuming.

Inadequate Testing 

Insufficient test coverage can result in undetected bugs, making it harder to maintain code and deliver new features. Fixing issues becomes more challenging as the system grows.

Parallel Developments

Multiple teams working on different parts of a project without proper coordination can lead to:

  • Inconsistencies 
  • Integration challenges 
  • Increased technical debt 


Parallel developments may result in code that lacks coherence and requires additional effort to align.

The Impact of Technical Debt

Technical debt can have a significant impact on projects, affecting the present and future of your organization. This can be through:

  • Cost
  • Project delays 
  • Hinder growth
  • Lack of competitiveness
  • Security risks


Financial and time costs escalate due to increased maintenance efforts and bug-fixing requirements. Project delays can become inevitable when accumulated technical debt makes future changes more time-consuming. The scalability of the software can hinder growth, making it challenging to extend or adapt to changing requirements.

Failure to quickly adapt and innovate can cause a lack of competitiveness for your projects. This is especially bad when your competitors work with more agile and easily maintained systems. Technical debt can cause more security risks, opening your business up to security breaches. This is particularly true when using outdated systems or software. 

How to Perform Technical Debt Reduction

A systematic and proactive approach is essential to effectively perform technical debt reduction. To do this, your organization can: 

  • Plan ahead
  • Establish SOPs
  • Implement a regular review process
  • Integrate a CI/CD pipeline
  • Get an outside perspective on your business processes


You’ll need to plan ahead, anticipating potential challenges and allocating time for debt reduction in project timelines. Establish SOPs (standard operating procedures) and document your development practices so they’re consistent and easily understandable. This documentation serves as a guide for developers and aids in knowledge transfer.

Implement a regular review process to identify and address technical debt. This can include:

  • Code reviews 
  • Architectural assessments 
  • Prioritizing areas for improvement 


Integrate a CI/CD pipeline to automate testing and deployment processes. Short for Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment, it ensures that code changes are consistently evaluated, reducing the risk of introducing new technical debt.

Additionally, get an outside perspective on your business processes at regular intervals for fresh insights. External audits or reviews by experienced professionals can uncover blind spots and offer valuable recommendations. This external viewpoint ensures a holistic understanding of the system’s health and effectiveness in technical debt reduction. 

How an IT Service Provider Can Help

An IT service provider plays a crucial role in addressing and alleviating technical debt for businesses. Their external expertise provides valuable perspectives on development best practices, often identifying problems that may not be apparent internally. This fresh outlook helps in comprehensive problem-solving and fosters continuous improvement.

Additionally, IT service providers assist in prioritizing and outsourcing tasks related to technical debt. They help organizations identify and focus on the most critical issues, ensuring that limited resources are directed toward the most impactful solutions. This strategic approach aids in efficiently managing technical debt without overwhelming internal teams.

IT service providers also contribute significantly to process optimization by running tests and implementing automation. Automated testing processes ensure the identification of issues early in the development cycle, preventing the accumulation of further technical debt.

Providers can assist with code refactoring—a critical aspect of technical debt reduction. By restructuring and improving existing code, they enhance maintainability and scalability, addressing the root causes of technical debt.

Partner with TenHats to Help Erase Your Technical Debt

Partnering with TenHats as your IT managed service provider (MSP) offers a targeted and effective solution to erase technical debt. We bring a wealth of expertise, providing a fresh perspective on development practices, especially in East Tennessee and the surrounding area region.

Our seasoned tech experts can identify and address technical debt issues, identifying and addressing technical debt issues that might not be immediately apparent. This helps ensure a comprehensive approach to problem solving.

We have expertise in code refactoring, contributing to: 

  • Improved code quality 
  • Enhanced maintainability 
  • Erased technical debt at its roots


As an MSP, TenHats excels in running tests and implementing process automation. Automated testing ensures early detection of issues, preventing the accumulation of further technical debt.

TenHats specializes in helping businesses prioritize and outsource tasks related to technical debt and much more. We guide organizations in determining the most critical issues and assist in allocating resources efficiently. By focusing on what matters most, we help businesses systematically address and erase technical debt without overburdening their internal teams.

Do you need help erasing debt from the technical side of your business? Contact us today to start a conversation!

Choosing quick solutions in software development leads to technical debt and hidden costs. If ignored, it hinders innovation and extends project timelines. Common issues include code duplication and inadequate testing, impacting costs, growth, and competitiveness. Proactive strategies encompass planning, regular reviews, and external perspectives. As an IT service provider, TenHats aids in efficiently managing and erasing technical debt for businesses.

In 2016, TenHats built the region’s first purpose-built colocation data center in over 20 years. Located in Knoxville, TN, our data center can serve any organization in East Tennessee and beyond. With our team’s IT experience, we provide a lot more than simply protected data. When you call us, you talk to a real IT expert. Connect with our team about our data center today!

Picture of Aaron Sherrill

Aaron Sherrill

Aaron is the Chief Technology Officer at TenHats leading the technology, cybersecurity, and data center teams of our organization. He has 25+ years of IT and security experience spanning across a variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and software development.

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