The key to paying down technical debt


As business leaders, we make decisions every day that have the potential to create some level of technical debt. We choose to deploy a new business application that streamlines HR processes but may require frequent patching, or we expedite delivery of a new product feature knowing there will be increased management overhead. To some extent, technical debt is unavoidable, but when debt accumulates over time, it will limit business velocity and stifle an organization’s ability to innovate.

For many enterprises, substantial technical debt is created by legacy applications, disparate platforms and processes, and outdated technology, and it is dragging down modernization initiatives. Organizations need to modernize their IT stack to compete in a digital economy, but – similar to the challenges of personal finance – you cannot begin to truly invest until you’ve paid off the debt you owe.

According to Forrester Research, maintaining older applications and technology typically consumes 70% or more of the technology budget. This debt slows development and burdens the organization with risk and cost but paying it off isn’t an easy task. Being able to quantify its cost, identify some critical technology areas that warrant your team’s attention, and develop clear plans for modernizing without business disruption is critical.

Stop trying to chip away at technical debt

Successful organizations do not chip away at massive technical debt over time. Replacing one piece of stale, tactical technology with a newer, shinier version will probably still leave you with disparate platforms and future debt. The key is to make smarter investments that instead launch the organization forward on a path that enables accelerated long-term innovation.

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