Survey Reveals That Technical Debt is Destroying Team Morale

As much as 66% of engineers believe their teams can ship up to 100% quicker if they had a process to deal with technical debt.

According to research by Stepsize, a SaaS company, as much as 58% of engineers are concerned about technical debt. They believe that the companies they work for lack appropriate processes to manage technical debt effectively. 

In the “State of Technical Debt 2021” report, Stepsize reveals that engineers waste around one day every week on technical debt, which has a negative effect on their team morale. CEO and co-founder of Stepsize, Alexander Omeyer, said, “We hope that this data will help engineers bring visibility into technical problems they face every day.”

What is Technical Debt?

Also known as design or code debt, technical debt is a software development concept that indicates the potential costs of using a limited approach instead of a better solution that would take longer to implement. 

Technical debt accumulates interest which causes challenges and may even lead to software entropy. However, it’s not always bad. Sometimes it’s needed to move projects forward. For example, in the beginning stages of change in a codebase, there’s usually a need to make coordinated changes in other areas of the codebase or in associated documentation. Changes that are needed but not completed are considered technical debt. 

The Survey

The survey included over 200 engineers who are part of development teams in startups, enterprises, and mid-sized companies globally. It included engineering leads, CTOs, and developers in the software, insurance, finance, retail, healthcare, agriculture, education, and energy sectors. 

Key Findings:

  • 52% of engineers believe that technical debt negatively affects team morale.
  • Over 60% of engineers believe that technical debt can cause bugs and outages and slow down development. 
  • On average, an engineer spends six hours per week (around an hour a day) dealing with technical debt. 
  • 65% of Engineers report that most of the technical debt comes from the backend. 
  • As much as 66% of engineers believe their teams can ship up to 100% quicker if they had a process to deal with technical debt.
  • A further 15% believe they would be up to 200% more productive.

These figures are a clear indication of how technical debt affects employee morale. They make a compelling case for companies to develop processes to manage technical debt urgently. 

The Effects of Technical Debt on Employee Morale

One of the most challenging things to manage in any company is employee morale, especially with many companies switching to long-term remote work arrangements. Developers may feel compelled to prioritize new features over critical maintenance work. Companies are pushing employees to increase productivity to ship quicker, yet dealing with technical debt is counterproductive to optimizing resources.

Effectively managing technical debt will help improve employee morale and help dispel bugs, improve quality, and reduce outages, which will ultimately speed up the development process.