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Why ignoring tech debt is a risky business

Uncover the silent killer of software development in our latest article. Learn how unchecked technical debt can slow progress, strain teams, and jeopardize your product's future. Discover actionable strategies to turn this hidden challenge into a stepping stone for success.
Technical dept
Software development
Code quality
TWG Team
January 25, 2024
5 minute read
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The race to release new features can often overshadow the less glamorous task of addressing technical debt. However, neglecting this critical aspect can lead to a situation that affects not only the product's quality but also the team's morale and the company's bottom line.

What is tech debt?

Technical debt refers to the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (or quick) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. This concept is analogous to financial debt in that taking on short-term debt can lead to quicker achievements, but with the understanding that the debt must be paid back, with "interest," in the form of extra work in the future. This extra work typically comes from the need to refactor or revise parts of the software due to initial compromises. Technical debt can accumulate from various practices, including inadequate upfront design, prioritizing speedy delivery over perfect code, or using outdated technologies

Tech debt, much like financial debt, accumulates interest. The longer it's left unaddressed, the more time and resources it will consume in the future. This means slower development times, increased bugs, and a higher chance of system failures. In essence, what seems like a shortcut today can become a long detour tomorrow. While new features are important for staying competitive and meeting user demands, they must not come at the expense of product quality. A foundation weakened by unresolved tech debt can lead to a shaky structure, unable to support the weight of new features, much less ensure their optimal performance.

What can happen if you don’t recognize it?

Neglecting tech debt not only impacts the product but also the team working on it. As the debt accumulates, so does the complexity of the codebase, making it increasingly difficult for developers to implement new features or fix existing issues. This can lead to frustration, burnout, and ultimately, a decline in team morale.

One of the most public examples of the impact of technical debt is the case of's troubled launch in October 2013. The website, central to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, crashed and experienced numerous bugs on its debut. The root causes were multifaceted, yet many of them could be called “Tech debt related”. In this case, one of the bigger factors was misalignment with policy changes, and the aftermath of changing too much to keep up with it. As the result, small changes here and there resulted in major issues later on. More on’s project: Managing mission-critical government software projects: Lessons learned from the project

User expectations are higher than ever. A slow, buggy, or unreliable app can significantly harm your brand's reputation and lead to a loss of trust among your users. In the long run, this could mean a decline in user retention rates and, consequently, revenue. Microsoft’s Xbox One took not optimal turn in 2014. The release of the newest software update introduced new features but unfortunately made the console’s operating system slow and unresponsive. However, because Microsoft has already built a reputation of a company who provides frequent updates and fixes, the whole situation did not meet with a big backlash from the users. Even more, some pointed out that it’s just an exception and they were “gently” indicating the issues to Microsoft. More about this case: Xbox One Operating System is Sluggish and Slow and The Operating System Needs to be Faster

Check our portfolio to explore case studies showcasing how we’ve tackled tech debt and launched successful features. Dive into our stories and see what we can do. Visit our portfolio


What to do with it?

One of the best examples we can think of in terms of tech debt resolution is… Google Chrome. They constant updates & refactors keep them on top of the game for nearly 12 years. Launched in 2012, Google Chrome till this day is major player in browsing space, having more than 60% of the mobile market!. Not only they kept the releases quite high, but as the time passed they made them even more frequent. On the other hand, we have a great example where tech debt simply killed big product → Internet Explorer. Having 4 major updates (compared to 70 of Google Chrome!), the cost of making changes became too big. Our recommendation? Be like Google Chrome.

Balancing between innovation and maintenance

The enthusiasm for rolling out new features must be balanced with the essential task of maintenance. Striking this balance is crucial for long-term success and sustainability. Implement a regular schedule for reviewing and addressing technical debt alongside your feature development cycle. This could involve dedicating a certain percentage of each development sprint to refactoring or improving existing code.

Enhanced team dynamics and product ownership

When technical debt is managed proactively, it leads to a more unified team environment. Team members feel a greater sense of ownership and pride in their work, which can boost efficiency. Foster an inclusive culture where every team member is encouraged to highlight areas of improvement within the codebase. Create a shared backlog of technical debt items and allow team members to contribute to its prioritization and resolution.

Preventing the snowball effect

Unaddressed technical debt can snowball, leading to an overwhelming amount of work that feels impossible to tackle. This can discourage new talent from joining the team and demotivate current members. Use tools and practices that help in identifying and tracking technical debt, such as code linters, static analysis tools, and code review processes. This will help in making the invisible visible and more manageable.

Leveraging automation for efficiency

Automation can play a significant role in managing technical debt by streamlining repetitive tasks and ensuring consistency across the codebase. Invest in automated testing frameworks, continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, and other automation tools. These investments pay off by freeing up developer time to focus on more complex and value-adding activities.

Continuous learning and adaptation

The landscape of technology and best practices is always evolving. Staying informed and adaptable is key to managing technical debt effectively. Encourage ongoing learning within your team. Allocate time for team members to explore new technologies, attend workshops, and participate in code reviews. This not only aids in personal development but also brings fresh perspectives to tackling technical debt.

Incorporating user feedback

Direct user feedback is invaluable in identifying areas where technical debt may be affecting the user experience. Incorporating this feedback into your development process ensures that efforts to reduce technical debt are aligned with user needs. Establish channels for gathering and analyzing user feedback, such as surveys, user testing sessions, and analytics. Prioritize technical debt reduction efforts based on this feedback to ensure that you are always improving the user experience.

The sustainable approach

Addressing technical debt should be a key component of your development strategy. By allocating time and resources to regularly refactor code, optimize performance, and improve documentation, you can ensure a healthier, more sustainable codebase. This, in turn, lays a solid foundation for introducing new features that are robust, reliable, and ready to meet the demands of your users. Managing technical debt is about strategic approach to development that prioritizes long-term success over short-term gains. By incorporating these recommendations into your development practices, you can ensure that your product remains competitive, your team stays motivated, and your users remain engaged.


We all get excited about new updates and features. However, overlooking the need to tidy up our coding messes is like trying to drive faster with a flat tire. It can slow down progress, frustrate the team, and tarnish our app's image. Let's commit to regular maintenance, fixing what needs attention so our app can smoothly race ahead and win hearts for years to come.

Technical dept
Software development
Code quality
TWG Team
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