The great reconciliation: Mitigating technical debt

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the widespread adoption of various technologies as businesses rushed to digitize their processes to cope with the crisis. However, this adoption came with a natural debt accrual, including operational debt, cultural debt, technical debt, security debt, lock-in debt, and more. With a looming economic downturn, businesses need to look for ways to maximize the benefits of their previous investments and mitigate the impact of that accumulated debt.

In many ways, the pandemic magnified an effect that we often see during technology innovation cycles. If we consider the innovation of modern applications and public cloud consumption as an innovation cycle, for example, typically what happens is customers will try to adopt as many best practices as they can from the greater community and fill in the gaps by choosing the best breed of tools. The challenge with this approach is that it is very expensive when you consider the costs of upskilling staff to understand and maintain the best practices as they rapidly evolve and the purchase and selection of best-breed solutions.

The pandemic exacerbated this because companies needed to move faster to react to opportunities and challenges. Now, these businesses are realizing the complexity and the sheer cost of managing these integrations. More importantly, as new customers are moving towards modern application models, they’re looking for a significantly simpler entry point.

Managing technical debt

To manage technical debt, business leaders need to examine their processes and tools. Cost management tools have become increasingly important as organizations drive towards getting a high-level view of the cost of public cloud. Business leaders need to understand the cost of a provision and how it affects performance and bandwidth to make informed decisions.

One way that organizations may inadvertently create debt is through their adoption of different technologies. For example, the self-checkout model that is prevalent in grocery stores and home improvement stores took years to enable, with significant investment in software and mechanics. This digital transformation effort was a response to the more competitive need to digitize processes that were previously manual. However, it has also led to technical debt that needs to be addressed, such as the cost of maintaining and upgrading the software.

While organizations are looking to reduce costs, there is still a need to improve processes, add more automation, and speed up the way people interact with business systems and applications. This creates a challenge for businesses to optimize and make better choices without impacting the core value.

Moreover, business leaders need to consider the impact of debt on an organization’s ability to innovate. Technical debt can limit innovation, and businesses need to find ways to take advantage of previous investments to mitigate debt. This includes optimizing processes to reduce the number of moving parts and integrating new solutions.

When making future investments, business leaders should consider the value of the application, the cost of operating and managing that application, and the cost of the toolchain and staff. In doing so, businesses can find ways to maximize their investments while mitigating debt and ensuring their ability to innovate.

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of various technologies, which has led to a natural debt accrual for businesses. While businesses are looking to reduce costs, they also need to find ways to innovate and optimize their processes. By managing technical debt, businesses can take advantage of previous investments and mitigate debt to ensure their ability to innovate and compete in an ever-changing landscape.

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Digital Transformation