In the wake of economic volatility over the past decade, corporations have accumulated technical debt due to cost cutting and underinvestment in technology. In many companies, the result is often a patchwork of software fixes and inefficiencies across applications, architectures, and infrastructure that stifle agility.
Meanwhile, the business expects IT to keep pace with the change that digital disruption requires. In order to do so, CIOs must pay down the accumulated technical debt to regain strategic relevance while playing the role for which IT is best suited: guiding technology decisions to help the organization maximize the value of new technologies.
In this sldieshow, Mazen Baroudi, Accenture Strategy‘s North America lead for Technology Strategy, outlines the areas where management needs to look to identify sources of technical debt. Mazen closes with three steps IT organizations should take to pay down their technical debt on their journey to becoming more nimble and responsive to the company’s technology needs and ultimately its business.
Shedding Technology Debt on the Way to Agility
Click through for a closer look at how limitations within applications, architectures, infrastructure, people and processes all contribute to technical debt, as well as ways to remediate the problem, as identified by Mazen Baroudi, Accenture Strategy’s North American lead of Technology Strategy.
Applications and Architecture: Primary Source
Application sprawl and code complexity are sure paths to inefficiency and IT latency. A lack of enterprise architecture governance and a lack of discipline around code development (e.g., code that is either unused, no longer fit for purpose or poorly written) all add significantly to development and maintenance costs, thus inhibiting speed and compromising quality.
Combine that with multiple or incompatible architecture stacks and integration costs continue to increase. While adding to maintenance, development, and licensing costs, they also encumber integration and interoperability, ultimately reducing an IT organization’s ability to quickly respond to business needs.
Infrastructure and Operations: Secondary Effects
Inefficiencies in applications and architectures have a secondary effect on infrastructure. Application sprawl and unnecessary application complexity require larger infrastructure footprints that result in higher real estate, power, and licensing costs.
Furthermore, they often also result in less resilient operations as overly complex applications, architectures, and integrations create additional failure points and security concerns. This creates a challenging environment for operations teams as they try to proactively monitor, analyze and respond to incidents.
People and Processes: A Final Consideration
Perhaps the least considered factor is the impact that people and processes have on technical debt. Out-of-date skill sets and legacy operating models that cannot keep pace with digital advances exponentially increase the debt associated with the application, architecture and infrastructure debt. In addition, moving to a simplified and modernized technology landscape can significantly optimize a business operation and drive value and cost savings to the overall enterprise.
Paying Back Technical Debt: Getting Started
To get out from under the technical debt, the first step is to develop a baseline. Metrics should be identified, base-lined, and tracked to measure ongoing impacts.
Be sure to include metrics that have business context as the selected metrics will influence the ongoing efforts. For instance, track the number of days it takes to fix code or measure the percentage of code that meets the organization’s compliance standards. Tools exist to help manage code coverage, quality and complexity. Processes, such as application portfolio management, can also be redesigned to facilitate application debt reduction.
Foster Agile Decision Making
To promote lean, agile decision making and rein in application sprawl, the CIO should assign oversight responsibility for IT architectural planning and governance to members of the IT management team.
They should be sensitive to the danger of building too many stacks and ensure that application capabilities are encapsulated via an API layer wherever possible.
Reshape, Retool, Re-Task and Retrain
Reshape, retool, re-task and retrain to create new nimble operations.
As the IT organization evolves, explore a variety of approaches around processes and people. Use new operating models and methods, such as DevOps and continuous development, to create an agile development lifecycle, and design an IT workforce for the future. Retool, re-task and retrain talent. Outline necessary skills for recruiting the next wave of talent who will understand the new digital architecture.
As technology leaders take these steps and pay down their organization’s technical debt, IT can once again become a nimble organization that enables business agility and growth.