Tools to Track and Manage Technical Debt

Polina Efimova
Polina Efimova
26
Jan
2021
|
4 min read
If you are looking for a tool to start managing technical debt this article will help you make the right decision. We will look at the tools to track small, medium, and large pieces of debt and the process to reduce technical debt.

Businesses of all sizes struggle with managing tech debt, from start-ups to enterprises. Using the right tools and processes to manage technical debt is crucial for engineering teams to maintain productivity and velocity.

Tech debt is an inevitable part of the software development process. Despite this, only 7% of engineers use tools and documentation to track technical debt. Moreover, only 3.5% reported that all engineers on their team take part in tracking tech debt. 

Teams that have a good strategy to manage technical debt can save millions in revenue, ship projects 50% faster, and drastically improve engineer retention. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true.

In this article, I’ll…

  • Explain why tracking technical debt is so important
  • Review three types of tools for tech debt management
  • Look at strategies to manage tech debt

Types of tools for addressing technical debt

Tools such as Stepsize, Sonarqube and Klockwork are used to manage technical debt. These tools approach tech debt by analysing the source code to identify hotspots, or helping software developers track issues in the code editor.

There are three main types of tools for managing tech debt. Some will be better suited to your business and use case than others. Let’s look at them in turn.

1. Project Management tools

Your organisation probably already has a project management tool such as Jira.

Jira is designed for cross-team and cross-functional collaboration. For example, it enables project managers or product owners to manage issues logged by developers efficiently. It’s meant to provide an environment for agile development.

The problem with Jira and alternatives to Jira

However, it has one significant drawback. Engineers find it difficult to use. They have to switch contexts frequently, and the tickets created in Jira are separate from the code they refer to. 

This can lead to accumulating tech debt, and makes it hard to know what issues already exist when looking at a codebase. 

No stress, though – there are extensions available to maximise the potential of Jira. I’ll talk about that soon!

2. Static analysis tools

Static analysis tools scan source code in search of technical debt. These tools use quantitative data to help developers identify hotspots in the codebase likely to have technical debt. 

One of their limitations is that they won't help you identify medium to large pieces of debt that span multiple parts of your codebase. They also won't provide the context necessary to truly understand each piece of debt and how to prioritise and tackle it.

Examples of static analysis tools include Sonarqube and Klockwork.

3. Technical debt tools

Tech debt management is a new category of tools specifically designed to fill the gaps left unaddressed by the other tools above.

These tools are designed to continuously track high-quality issues that are linked to code. They make tech debt…

  • Easy to track
  • Easy to spot
  • Easy to fix

The infrastructure for managing tech debt needs to be set up to encourage engineers to view, log, and resolve tech debt effortlessly. This drives behavioural change around tracking and fixing bugs and issues. When this isn’t the case, fewer issues get logged, issues are low-quality and prioritisation becomes a challenge. This isn’t a sustainable way to build high-quality software in the long term, and the adverse effects touch every corner of the business, from code quality to time-to-market.

Stepsize is the only specialised tech debt tool. Using Stepsize, engineers can track technical debt issues from their code editor and create and organise related issues. It integrates with tools you already use, like Jira.

The Stepsize tool does this by bringing all the features of Jira right into your code editor. It’s designed to help development teams improve quality, efficiency and predictability.

With Stepsize, you can

  • Create, view and resolve issues directly from the IDE
  • Prioritise issues and tech debt
  • Plan sprints with the Jira integration
  • Visualise tech debt in your codebase

When engineers create issues with Stepsize, the issues are innately linked to the code, making them both visible and actionable.

How to fix and solve technical debt

Create issues directly linked to code without leaving your codebase.

The best way to start using Stepsize is to install the VSCode extension or the  Jetbrains extension.

Key takeaways

Technical debt is an inevitable part of the software development process, and when managed poorly, there can be severe consequences. Fortunately, using the right tools and processes to track and manage technical debt allows teams to become more efficient with their resources, time and money.

☑️ Involve your entire team in high-quality issue tracking

☑️ Install the Stepsize VSCode extension or the Jetbrains extension

☑️ Regularly clear the debt in the way of the features on your product roadmap


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