Managing Technical Debt in Customized Software Solutions
January 29, 2024 • 6 min read
Learn about technical debt and the impact its silent accumulation has on growers. Read about the four types of technical debt and effective management strategies for them. For growers, addressing technical debt is crucial whether in-house or opting for third-party solutions. Discover how SaaS models emerge as a practical solution. Technical debt is more than a nuisance; it's a necessary consideration for sustained success in horticulture.
Technical Debt: The Hidden Cost of Quick Solutions
Technical debt, a common concept in software development, often accrues silently. It is the result of compromises made during the development process - akin to taking out a loan. To meet deadlines or address urgent needs, software development teams may choose expedient solutions, knowing that these shortcuts may require "repayment" later. This debt manifests as inefficient code, unresolved bugs, and outdated technologies. Much like financial debt, technical debt incurs interest over time, as the effort required to fix issues compounds. Technical debt must be addressed early and often to maintain a healthy software system.
Horticulture businesses rely on efficient software to manage greenhouse operations effectively, so considering technical debt is important whether software is developed in-house or purchased from a third-party.
Impact of Technical Debt on Growers
For growers, the level of technical debt that your software carries impacts your operations. Accumulating technical debt leads to a range of issues including increased maintenance costs, system failures, delayed feature releases, diminished software quality, and more. If your software is purchased, the burden of managing technical debt falls on the provider, diverting resources from delivering value-added solutions to you. To ensure smooth greenhouse operations, growers should collaborate with software providers committed to minimizing technical debt to improve the reliability of software solutions for horticultural success.
Understanding Technical Debt in Horticulture Software
Understanding the impact of technical debt on greenhouse operations is key to managing it well. Shortcuts taken during development may leave lasting impacts on the operations of a greenhouse.
Technical debt can be grouped with the following categories:
Intentional technical debt arises when software development teams consciously choose a solution that requires refactoring later. This can be a prudent choice depending on the needs at the time, but it must be documented and revisited at the earliest opportunity.
Unintentional technical debt emerges when errors or inefficiencies are unknowingly introduced into code due to a lack of knowledge, skills, or appropriate tools. This type of technical debt is mitigated with code reviews.
Avoidable technical debt stems from unnecessary shortcuts taken in development.It is prevented by adhering to best practices, coding disciplines, and guidelines.
Unavoidable technical debt results from unforeseen challenges and the unpredictability of the future. It often requires conceptual changes and refinements for long-term development stability. The cost of technical debt in this category is reduced with short feedback loops, but it cannot be completely eliminated.
Managing Technical Debt
Handling technical debt requires significant resources. If software is developed and maintained in-house by a horticulture business, any time spent managing technical debt is diverted from the core mission of the business: growing! This makes relying on in-house development teams to combat technical debt a less-than-ideal solution.
If software is purchased as a customized solution, managing technical debt is costly. Either an in-house team must become familiar with code they did not write to pay down the debt, or the third-party who wrote the code must revisit their code under a billable-hours model. This approach leads to higher maintenance costs, hinders innovation, and ultimately reduces greenhouse productivity.
If software is purchased under a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, the SaaS vendor has a vested interest in paying down technical debt quickly and frequently. The vendor is responsible and properly incentivized to minimize technical debt because the vendor incurs the costs of technical debt directly. Competitive SaaS vendors employ robust development practices to avoid and reduce technical debt, and deliver value-adding software. With a SaaS model, growers focus on their core business, while the SaaS vendor focuses on its core competency. This streamlines grower operations and generates innovation. Purchasing software under a SaaS model is a practical choice for growers seeking to avoid the hidden costs of technical debt.
The Ongoing Effort: Sustaining Horticulture Software Excellence
The effective management of technical debt is vital for horticulture software growers. While technical debt might expedite software delivery, the long-term implications must be weighed. By categorizing and addressing different types of debt, software providers can build solutions to meet the evolving needs of growers. SaaS emerges as a powerful tool to mitigate technical debt, empowering growers to focus on their growing operations. Addressing technical debt is more than a recurring annoyance; it is a necessary step for success in horticulture.