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5 Tools to Measure Technical Debt [with Features and Drawbacks]

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Last updated on
January 22, 2024

A QUICK SUMMARY – FOR THE BUSY ONES

TABLE OF CONTENTS

5 Tools to Measure Technical Debt [with Features and Drawbacks]

Tools to measure technical debt

1. SonarQube

SonarQube is an open-source platform used for continuous inspection of code quality. It performs automatic reviews of code to detect bugs, code smells, and security vulnerabilities.

Crucial Features:

  • Static code analysis for 27+ programming languages.
  • Detection of bugs and vulnerabilities.
  • Integration with CI/CD pipelines.
  • Quality gate and leak period concepts.

Pricing: 

SonarQube comes in various editions: Community (Free), Developer, Enterprise, and Data Center.

Why to Choose:

  • Comprehensive code analysis.
  • Supports a wide range of languages.
  • Extensive community and plugin ecosystem.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Can be complex to set up and configure.
  • May generate false positives.

2. Jira

Jira by Atlassian is a popular issue and project tracking tool, widely used for bug tracking, issue tracking, and project management.

Crucial Features:

  • Customizable workflows.
  • Scrum and Kanban boards.
  • Backlog prioritization and sprint planning.
  • Integrations with numerous development tools.

Pricing: 

Offers a free version and paid versions starting at $7/user/month.

Why to Choose:

  • Highly customizable.
  • Extensive integration capabilities.
  • Robust reporting and dashboards.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Can be overwhelming due to its extensive features.
  • Configuration and customization can be complex.

3. CAST Highlight

CAST Highlight is a SaaS platform that provides a portfolio-level view of software health by analyzing source code and cloud configurations.

Crucial Features:

  • Cloud readiness assessment.
  • Open-source risk management.
  • Software composition analysis.
  • Technical debt estimation.

Pricing:

Pricing is available upon request.

Why to Choose:

  • Provides insights into software health and risk.
  • Cloud migration and modernization insights.
  • Actionable refactoring guidance.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • May require training to effectively utilize all features.

4. NDepend

Depend is a static analysis tool for .NET managed code which provides insights into code base quality, technical debt estimation, and code complexity.

Crucial Features:

  • Static code analysis.
  • Technical debt estimation.
  • Code rules and quality gates.
  • Dependency visualization.

Pricing: 

Pricing starts at $399 for a single developer license.

Why to Choose:

  • Detailed technical debt estimation.
  • Integrates with Visual Studio.
  • Offers a wide range of metrics.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Only for .NET codebases.
  • May have a learning curve for new users.

5. ReSharper

ReSharper by JetBrains is a Visual Studio Extension that helps in code quality analysis, refactoring, and navigation enhancements.

Crucial Features:

  • Code quality analysis.
  • Code refactoring capabilities.
  • Code editing helpers.
  • Unit testing assistance.

Pricing: 

Starts at $139/user for the first year.

Why to Choose:

  • Robust refactoring tools.
  • Supports multiple programming languages.
  • Continuous code quality analysis.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Only available for Visual Studio.
  • Can be resource-intensive.

Why it’s important to track technical debt

Legacy system modernization challenges - technical debt
Report: State of Software Modernization 2024

Tracking technical debt is crucial for several reasons, as it directly impacts the health of the software, the productivity of the development team, and the business as a whole. Here are some key reasons why it's important to track technical debt:

1. Maintain software quality

  • Prevent Degradation: Technical debt can degrade the quality of the software over time, leading to a decline in performance, reliability, and usability.
  • Avoid Bugs: Accumulated technical debt often results in an increased number of bugs and issues, which can affect the user experience.

2. Ensure timely delivery

  • Avoid Delays: Technical debt can slow down the development process, leading to delays in feature delivery and product releases.
  • Improve Predictability: Tracking technical debt helps in better planning and ensures that timelines are met by avoiding unforeseen issues related to debt.

3. Enhance developer productivity

  • Ease of Modification: A codebase with minimal technical debt is easier to modify and add new features to.
  • Reduce Friction: Developers can work more efficiently when they are not constantly dealing with the complexities and issues arising from technical debt.

4. Mitigate risks

  • Prevent Blockers: Unaddressed technical debt can become a significant blocker in future development or during scaling.
  • Security: Technical debt may include outdated libraries or frameworks with known vulnerabilities, posing a security risk.

5. Cost management

  • Reduce Costs: Addressing technical debt early is usually less costly than fixing the compounded issues that arise from neglecting it.
  • Optimize Resources: Efficient code requires fewer resources to run and maintain, thereby saving costs in the long run.

6. Maintain team morale

  • Job Satisfaction: Developers tend to have higher job satisfaction when working with a clean, well-maintained codebase.
  • Minimize Burnout: Continuously dealing with issues arising from technical debt can lead to developer burnout and frustration.

7. Ensure scalability

  • Adaptability: A codebase with minimal technical debt is more adaptable to changes and can be scaled more easily.
  • Incorporate Innovations: It’s easier to incorporate new technologies and innovations into a codebase that isn’t bogged down by technical debt.

8. Customer satisfaction

  • Reliable Products: Products with less technical debt are likely to be more reliable and performant, leading to higher customer satisfaction.
  • Quick Feature Releases: With less technical debt, new features and improvements can be released more quickly, keeping the product competitive and meeting customer expectations.

9. Strategic planning

  • Align with Business Goals: Keeping track of technical debt ensures that the software development is aligned with business goals and strategies.
  • Prioritize Work: Knowing the extent and impact of technical debt helps in prioritizing work and allocating resources effectively.

So how to choose the right tool?

Choosing the right tool to track technical debt involves considering the programming languages used, integration capabilities, pricing, and specific features that cater to the team’s needs. It’s often beneficial to utilize trial versions to evaluate the tool’s effectiveness in your specific use case before making a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Authors

Olga Gierszal
github
Software Engineering Editor

Software development enthusiast with 6 years of professional experience in the tech industry.

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