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Overcoming Technical Debt Before it Hinders Organizational Growth

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As demand increases for IT modernization and digital transformation initiatives, it is increasingly imperative to ensure innovation and competitiveness into the future by relieving technical debt and limiting the time it takes IT teams to manage the complexities of it.

Technical debt is frequently associated with applications or code that no longer support business needs. It can include technical components that were once useful during their lifespan but are now inefficient or inflexible. Technical debt also can include infrastructure that has reached its supportable lifespan or has insufficient capacity for an organization’s continuing needs. Keeping these components around can make continued development slower or more complex while creating significant maintenance and risk until it is discarded or replaced.

Preventing tech debt or managing it early helps save organizations money in the long run. On average, approximately one-fourth of annual IT budgets are allocated to handling technical debt. In addition, many organizations said their tech debt increased by 78% last year, according to a DevOps.com article. Investing in the annual maintenance and inventory of your hardware, software and labor can help reduce technical debt.

How Technical Debt Accumulates and Hinders Your Organization

Technical debt can accumulate in several ways. For starters, quicker doesn’t always mean quality. The short-term benefit of meeting a deadline and getting a service to market quickly can lead to long-term consequences if code or infrastructure impedes future development phases. The current business climate is highly dynamic, and it’s difficult for IT teams to account for all future requirements. Eventually, the best technical solutions will need to be replaced. Tech debt also accumulates from changes in operations such as major expansions, relocations, mergers and acquisitions. These events can leave organizations with mismatched or duplicate apps and infrastructure that can take years to resolve.

Unexpected risk and the inability to change are just a few of many drawbacks of keeping technical debt. Code or infrastructure that require significant, often costly or time-consuming maintenance can hinder companies trying to become more agile to compete and deliver better customer experiences. Additionally, long-term legacy code and infrastructure present risk – either there’s an inability for staff to maintain it or there’s potential for outright failure. In both cases, teams often lack the technical skills or design history to understand how to resolve issues and maintain operations.

Predictability is one reason IT teams may choose to live with technical debt. They may be resistant to change due to a fear of potential risk in working with new code, systems or providers. Instead of embracing change, they believe it’s easier to rely on technologies that are well-worn and fully depreciated.

Imagine this scenario. An organization needs to move quickly to divest from a private equity group. Some platforms no longer fit the company’s needs due to overlapping functionality. There also is a shortage of skills to maintain the platforms. The company can manage its technical debt by balancing progress in meeting its business goals while also incorporating new projects that would modernize and retire the tech debt that was carried over.

Preventing, Managing and Overcoming Technical Debt

Every organization has to make difficult decisions about how to architect solutions, decide what tools or platforms they will run on and determine how they are integrated. They will need to prioritize what is more important - quality, speed or cost. Virtually every operation has some degree of technical debt to address and has to make decisions about how to allocate team efforts to manage and resolve it in light of their organizational demands.

Unfortunately, managing technical debt is not a simple process, but there are best practices that can support organizations.

For organizations developing and maintaining code or apps, it’s important to give tech debt remediation tasks sufficient representation in your development backlog. Closely watching the weighting of task categories in your development portfolio can help maintain balance and ensure tech debt doesn’t over-accumulate. For infrastructure tech debt, developing a discrete lifecycle approach, perhaps as part of a broader enterprise architecture effort, can help organizations track aging (end-of-support, end-of-life) infrastructure and make decisions on replacing or outsourcing platforms. Overall, good governance can shed light on tech debt and help teams develop resolutions.

FNTS utilizes an agile approach to help reduce tech debt from accumulating by folding remediation projects into the ongoing development backlog. This approach, along with our continuous improvement methodology, allows FNTS teams to stay ahead of tech debt and make sure solutions are based on the best, most cost-effective outcomes for customers.

We help organizations manage significant infrastructure tech debt from general accumulation or business changes. FNTS has significant expertise in evaluating, consolidating and migrating platforms of all types and has been doing so for more than 25 years. By shifting these responsibilities to us, we help organizations avoid risk and the never-ending cycle of infrastructure aging and replacement. Our engineers evaluate tech debt and retire it faster by leveraging public, private and mainframe modernization cloud platforms so companies can focus on their most imperative business goals.

During cloud migration, like any transformation program, it’s important to have a good catalog of the current technical architecture and system-of-record for all business processes. Following cloud migration, organizations can get too preoccupied with developing and leveraging their cloud platform that they push residual tech debt efforts to the back burner. Doing so can increase costs and will often limit the achievement of ROI related to the cloud migration.

Working with a trusted partner like FNTS can help you rapidly deploy solutions that remediate tech debt faster, reduce total cost of ownership and shift focus to more value-added projects.

Check out our Technical Debt Assessment and Remediation Lifecycle Worksheet which includes a workflow of processes and high-level actions. It’s a great starting point for organizations undertaking efforts to analyze technical debt.