How to Reduce Your Technical Debt: Strategies for Finding and Replacing Systems That Slow Your Business Down
After more than a year of short-term crisis management brought on by COVID-19, CIOs are starting to again look long term and strategize around major market, technology, and operation changes.
But before looking externally for increased business value, CIOs should take this opportunity to turn their gaze inward and assess their current systems for any signs of technical debt that may slow or derail forward progress.
What exactly is technical debt? What causes it, and what does it cost? And what can you do about it? We’re here to provide those answers and more.
An Innovation Roadblock: Defining Technical Debt
Simply put, carrying technical debt is the antithesis of digital agility. Instead of devoting time and resources to new, innovative pursuits, organizations fall behind by supporting, maintaining, and modifying outdated tools and systems. Where agile companies operate on secure platforms that integrate easily and respond quickly to new business needs, those burdened by technical debt struggle with rigid, siloed platforms that prohibit innovation.
Not all legacy systems—like COBOL and mainframes—contribute to technical debt in the same way. In fact, COBOL recently released a new update, and large companies still widely manage and use mainframes. The key is understanding how fast you operate in your current environment compared to how fast you could operate in an improved environment. Technical debt really starts to cause problems when legacy environments fail to integrate with new applications, or when companies can’t find support for the systems they’re using. Such conditions increase the deficit between current speed and optimal speed.
Let’s not forget about the actual costs, which add up fast. Beyond normal support, aging legacy systems and platforms require greater expenditures for security, monitoring, and possibly the maintenance of supporting storage and network systems. Older systems might require more expensive cooling methods than newer ones. Want to move data? You’ll have to spend extra to break through silos and format data for ingestion into another system.
What Causes Technical Debt?
Time is often the biggest culprit. Think about someone restoring an old car. With each year that passes, working parts in good shape become harder to find. The same is true of technology. Systems, parts, and languages fade into the recesses of history, and the professionals capable of maintaining them become even more scarce.
Some businesses may run into technical debt because their resources fail to keep up with the pace of cloud innovation. Others may look at their current processes and think, “We’re stable,” rather than looking more critically and determining, “We need to make changes to support our strategy.”
A word of advice: To avoid technical debt, don’t think only about how your systems work in your current environment—consider how they’ll adapt to where your business and your market is moving.
If you’re in technical debt now, fear not: There is hope on the horizon.
Out of the Red, Into the Black
The first step to minimizing technical debt is detection. That’s not always as simple as it sounds. Some companies invest so deeply in one system they can’t see beyond that system. They are too close to realize how outdated technology is holding them back. For this reason, outside experts like those at Stratascale should be considered, who can provide a valuable perspective on when and where to upgrade.
How we engage.
Stratascale’s Transformative Services management consultants will start by meeting with your company’s leadership to determine your business goals and the best tools to achieve them. Our Innovation Labs continues the momentum from there, researching best practices from the marketplace to build a viable tech management strategy.
Among our tried-and-true methods for reducing technical debt and modernizing your infrastructure:
- Containerize and move to the cloud. Shedding technical debt is, in part, about gaining speed and agility. We help containerize apps running on old systems and move them to a modern platform for optimal performance. Similarly, our cloud services and hybrid cloud teams help you realize increases in speed and elasticity with a move to public, private, or hybrid cloud infrastructure.
- Refactoring code. Legacy code can hold you back if it can’t integrate with new platforms and applications. Through our partnership with mLogica, Stratascale can bring code to new levels—like driving COBOL code to .NET—and prepare for a streamlined cloud migration.
- Ongoing maintenance. As long as time keeps marching on, technical debt remains a threat. Stratascale helps you stay current through regular reviews and updates that ensure your company’s systems remain agile.
Technical debt is a series problem and there are business and technical experts that can help. Our team at Stratascale excels at providing relief to companies drowning in their technical debt with no clear path to the surface. We draw upon years of successful engagements to help companies understand their current state and make smart tech investments going forward.