Get it Right the First Time to Avoid Technical Debt

3 min read

Hiring a software developer with the expertise to add bells, whistles and work-arounds to legacy systems is great.  Until your legacy system becomes too complicated to easily navigate. Or you experience frequent bugs, errors or worse – data breaches.

Some may say it’s a choice between speed and quality, particularly when there’s pressure to deliver an immediate ROI on a software investment. As an accountant who has seen the financial impact of fast turnarounds on both sides, I say that’s a false choice.

You should set a high standard and identify a software provider that employs an agile approach during deployment and offers a robust and flexible software platform that’s built right the first time. You deserve to partner with industry experts who understand your business, have experienced your pain points and understand exactly how you want to interact with your platform.

Getting it right the first time is a better choice than iterating as you go.

At Katabat, we follow the advice of former Olympic sprinter and speed coach John Smith that “to go fast, you have to take your time.” In other words, thoughtful up-front strategy and design translates to downstream efficiency and optimization.

Getting things right the first time requires industry expertise and an agile culture that promotes speed AND functionality and avoids shortcuts. The following steps can help you get there:

  • Trust, but verify.
  • Make data security a top priority.
  • Be honest about what your software DOESN’T do when asked what it DOES do.
  • Be realistic and straightforward about timelines and deliverables.

That’s not to say that a focus on designing software correctly the first time means you’ll never have to make changes. Refactoring of software systems (restructuring the code to improve nonfunctional attributes of the software) is inherent to maintaining high-quality, effective solutions.

When I say, “getting it right the first time,” I’m really talking about avoiding technical debt — the incremental cost of iterative development after selecting what appeared to be a fast and easy solution. Technical debt is passed on to the client, so thoughtful planning and an Agile culture is time well spent.

The cost of technical debt – which goes beyond dollars and cents – includes:

Lost Time

Customers often choose fast and easy software solutions over better options because “better” takes time to create. Immediate gratification, however comes at a cost.

The legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden sums it up perfectly: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” Cutting corners to save time upfront nearly always results in more time (and money) being spent later.

Lost Trust

When you promise great service or functionality to your client and then fail to deliver, you lose credibility. In today’s environment of constant news, online reviews, and public shaming, you might lose the trust of prospective clients as well.

Remember the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill? BP had a good reputation prior to 2010. It was considered progressive on alternative fuel research and its “Beyond Petroleum” branding tried to position it as a greener choice. When one of its offshore rigs exploded, it soon came to light that BP had been cutting corners on safety procedures.

While not doing things right the first time may not result in such a catastrophic event as it did for BP, it will erode the trust your customers have in you and your company.

Lost Data

It seems there’s something in the news almost daily about a data breach. Data protection and security MUST be done right the first time. We all know that damage from a data breach cannot be undone, and the implications for businesses that have been breached are serious.

One way to assess a prospective software provider’s commitment to doing it right the first time is through the questions you ask during the vetting process. “Trust but verify” is good advice where data security is concerned.

  • What kind of security testing does a potential software vendor conduct during development?
  • What third-party assessments have been completed and how did the vendor fare?

If your customers are exposed to a data breach, nobody is going to care if it was your software provider’s fault. You will be to blame. So, it is imperative that your data security measures are ironclad the first time around.

Things can get in the way of our commitment to building things well the first time around. That’s why transparency is so important. Be honest with your customers. Be able to say, “yes, it may take longer or cost more initially, but this is a fraction of the technical debt you’d incur given rework of an entire project.”

Diane Caputo has been a senior accountant at Katabat for more than six years.

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