In 1992, Ward Cunningham coined the metaphor of “technical debt” to highlight how companies weigh their short-term earnings against the long-term viability of a software product. Business dynamics have evolved a lot since then, but the metaphor still works.
Favoring a short-term plan for a faster market entry option is not always a bad thing, provided the company has a back-up plan to deliver well-designed code that will simplify future iterations and innovations.
But for startups, rework is difficult because deadlines and resource crunch prevent developers from producing clean, perfect code. Startups prioritize short-term plans and focus more on adding jobs to achieve milestones, sign up for high-profile clients, or raise funding. Confusing this roadmap and ignoring the long-term vision is leading to technology debt.
I have worked closely with over 25 startups and learned a lot from their journey from early stage to growth stage. I’ve come to realize that avoiding technical debt gets easier with a few ground rules.
Here are four rules startups must follow to avoid tech debt:
Do not let specific applications last for more than three months
Startups often try to customize their products to meet the prominent requirements of customers. This sometimes leads to two products – a generalized version and a customer-specific version, the convergence of which becomes difficult over time.
To stay on track, companies start cutting corners, destabilizing the product. I’ve seen engineering teams work on customization for an entire year and then lose 20 months on core product integration and installation.
The foundation of any software product is directly responsible for improving scalability and maintainability.
Startups generally run a listed run of 18 to 24 months before they raise the next level of funding. If they rework to popularize the features, they could lose a quarter costly to stabilization.
what should I do:
When teams work on custom features for more than the specified schedule, integrating them back into the core product becomes complicated. It is better to admit that products cannot be customer specific at first. Startups should consider the platform and think about the possibility of future maintenance in advance.