Technical Debt: What Does It Mean to Be in the Red With QA Testing?

Owen Savage

Automation Expert

So, you’ve implemented software testing in your company. You’ve found some good solutions. But those solutions are constantly having to be reworked. You discovered some quick fixes, but now you’re in technical debt. 

This short article will explain what technical debt is, its causes, consequences, and how to reduce it. 

Skip to: 

What is technical debt?
What causes technical debt?
The consequences of technical debt
Reducing technical debt with test automation

 

What is technical debt?  

So what is technical debt? 

A debt is something businesses have to pay in time with money and resources. Technical debt is when this happens because of choosing quick solutions when testing software, and it can be measured by the cost of reworking a solution. 

Quick fixes work at the time, but you pay the price later on. 

Related reading: How to Tackle Technical Debt in Dynamics with Test Automation 

 

What causes technical debt? 

You’re forced to make a trade-off between a delayed launch and accumulating technical debt. Because speed is prioritized over quality, the deliverable is far from perfect.

In turn the amount of testing you have to do per release gets bigger and bigger, because your development team aren't focusing on writing quality code. 

Testers are forced to tackle mountains of technical debt. Just to keep the system running. It stops them from being able to get better coverage of their system and makes them highly prone to risk in other areas of the software. 

You also want to get to market faster. You can see why this situation results in short-term choices, but those choices lead to a larger need for testing and backlogged tasks. 

Putting DevOps and an agile methodology into action means delivering functionality at speed in an ever-changing environment. Technical debt occurs when you try to save time in the short-term, without considering the problems to come. 

Outdated technology is another cause of technical debt: the frameworks, coding languages, and libraries comprising developing modern applications change all the time. They quickly become outdated. 

If you can’t develop a strategy that helps you keep up, you’ll end up in technical debt. 

 

The consequences of technical debt 

The short-term mindset that leads to technical debt means you end up spending your time rewriting broken code, not innovating new solutions. You lose time and energy and you’re stuck catching up. 

This can lead to downtime, degraded functionality, low customer satisfaction, and ultimately, a loss of revenue. Even worse, it tends to grow with time. The problems caused by previous solutions worsen and build up with every major or minor software release. 

You essentially create more work for yourself later on… 

Technical debt (laundry) diagram

 

Reducing technical debt with test automation 

The Capgemini World Quality Report 2021-22 recommends standardizing the use of test automation in QA from end to end. Part of the reason for this is being able to automate the testing of your technical debt pile. You can create better test coverage of your overall system. 

Although test automation will give you the coverage you need while your software grows and new features are added, it is the type of automation that you choose that will make or break your testing strategy. 

It has to be easy to use, maintainable and scalable. So what does that look like in practice? And what does a good test strategy look like? 

A well-strategized approach to test automation can help you to anticipate where technical debt might build up in the future—you can automate the tests that will potentially consume your time and resources. 

To learn more about how to make a good test automation strategy, we’ve written a blog post on the subject. Test automation strategy: A Checklist

At Leapwork, we take a visual, no-code approach to test automation. It helps you keep up with the pace of change as you make changes to your software and deliver functionality at speed. 

In the red? We can show help show your team the green light to a future without technical debt. 

See the example below of Leapwork's automation tool. 

effortless-automated-testing

Learn more about building maintainable and scalable automation in our guide. 

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