During the pandemic, IT organizations incurred large amounts of technical debt. In 2022, a top priority for many of these organizations is technical debt reduction. Technical debt is a growing drain on IT budgets and productivity. It accumulates from both deliberate and hasty decisions to address challenges within IT infrastructure. The past several years have challenged IT teams to think fast and react faster to ensure business continuity. Unfortunately, that has led to significant technical debt.
The first step to addressing technical debt is assessing the problem.
Assessing infrastructure technical debt
Infrastructure technical debt refers to the cost associated with maintaining or updating your company’s tech environment. For example, this debt may come from updating computer hardware, servers, operating systems, storage, network components, and more. It considers the bigger picture of your IT ecosystem and the steps needed to ensure stable, secure, and reliable access to your data and systems. To calculate the cost of your infrastructure technical debt, it’s important to consider both hard costs (e.g., hardware) and soft or implied costs (e.g., time).
When businesses made the quick decision to transition employees from in-office work environments to remote locations, they had to purchase new hardware and workstation equipment, as well as install software, train employees, increase security protocols, and more. Although this process started as a reaction to an acute problem, the challenge remained for much longer than anyone anticipated. From unplanned and unexpected hardware and software costs to significant time expenditure from IT teams and staff, the infrastructure technical debt has been significant. But that’s just one extreme example. Companies have incurred infrastructure technical debt for years as a reaction to changing economic factors, staffing levels, and business needs.
Assessing application technical debt
On the application side, Working Capital Review defines technical debt as a situation “when the bugs and missing documentation cause a corresponding drop in enterprise efficiency.” As companies grow, they outpace their software so that add-ons, workarounds, and processes tied to the legacy application increase, creating application-specific technical debt.
Wrapping your brain around the technical debt facing your IT team is no easy task. DZone recently shared some of the key metrics that can serve as an effective starting point for erasure of technical debt:
- Review new vs. closed bugs.
- Analyze resolved vs. unresolved issues.
- Conduct code quality reviews.
- Measure the time between first commit and deployment.
- Track code churn (i.e., the number of times a line of code has been scrapped and rewritten).
- Understand how many lines of code within a deployment are actually used.
- Establish code coverage (i.e., number of developers working on a particular ticket or project deployment).
These back-end processes can help your developer team assess their debt.
Assessing integrations, patches, and workarounds
One irony of digital transformation is that it can push enterprise organizations to become early adopters of technology without fully vetting the product. This certainly happened during the pandemic as many companies scrambled to support remote teams, but that wasn’t the only catalyst. Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for companies to realize their new software didn’t play well with existing tools and workflows. This caused a patchwork of integrations, where developers created a bridge to fill these gaps.
Urgency, like we saw during the pandemic, can lead to hasty decisions without proper due diligence and potential technical debt. In some cases, these decisions work seamlessly with no conflicts with existing systems. In others, teams may have to reconfigure, patch, or otherwise adjust the solution or workflows to meet the needs of the organization and existing IT ecosystem.
Once you’ve identified technical debt within your organization, the next step is debt reduction.
Reducing technical debt
Measuring technical debt naturally leads to an assessment of how to reduce it. MuleSoft suggests the following steps:
- Identify the source of the issue causing the technical debt.
- Adopt cloud and outsourcing solutions to address legacy applications.
- If point-to-point integration is an issue in your organization, consider cloud solutions with application program interfaces (APIs) to connect critical software. APIs fill the gaps between platforms with no need for your developer team to create integration workarounds.
Technical debt is the bane of almost every enterprise organization. The Windsor Group Sourcing Advisory can evaluate your technology infrastructure and bring decades of IT experience to bear on even your toughest challenges. We are the trusted advisor to the enterprise and midmarket C-suite. Start the conversation to improve your IT architectures and streamline your costs and workflows. Contact Windsor today.