Understand your technology debt

Budgets and office politics aside, it’s actually technology debt that sends many projects to the digital dustbin of eHistory. In fact, it can be crushing. It’s a major issue for airlines and now it’s coming home to roost for them. Cathay-Pacific has already given away first class seats for a fraction of what they’re worth in online mistakes on pricing. While we don’t know the full story, our team surmises technology debt plays a vital role. It’s time to address it.
What is technology debt?
Very simply put; legacy IT systems from hardware to software. Old IBM AS400 databases, ancient versions of Oracle, maybe even systems running FORTRAN or COBOL. Although, in some cases, they are actually more reliable than some of today’s database software tools.
Your technology debt is old hardware and software that the CFO often thinks can last another year, another quarter. CIO’s have enough on their plate today and need to be ever more business savvy. There are just so many things and areas that technology touches today, it can be overwhelming to set priorities. Legacy systems limp along.
Getting ahead of technology debt
Advances in development methodologies (e.g. agile) and software today mean it’s probably time to look at serious legacy technologies. At some point the patches and band-aids just aren’t going to work anymore and that time is approaching.
One area we like to focus on is resolving clients technology debt. While some systems really are going to have to hang on another year or two, others just can’t and the risk factors are too high.
Your customers are probably hurting
As CIO’s must be more business savvy and evolve digital business models, carrying high levels of technology debt can severely impact revenues and profitability. What often happens is that DevOps teams and marketing often end up forcing the customer to comply with legacy systems. This creates frustration for your customers (and supply chain) and actually costs you money.
A technology debt reduction plan
What we find works is a) recognizing what the technology debt load is and then b) planning the succession program. This can, done right, actually reduce risk and help you bring down that debt a little faster and with less risk of damage to business.
The very first thing to look at is in fact, the customer experience, whether your B2B or B2C. Chances are, if you’re forcing customers to comply with onerous legacy systems, you’re probably losing money.
It’s an excellent place to start determining the true cost of your technology debt and getting marketing and finance on board towards getting a plan in place to improve. Smart CIO’s and CDO’s today know they need to be more aware of digital business models and the changing market pressures.
Understand your technology debt, work with finance and marketing and develop a plan. Money can be saved and made. A business plan is in there.

About the Author Giles W. Crouch

Giles Crouch is a design anthropologist and CDO/CIO. He spent over 20 years in globally-focussed marketing communications for technology products and services, but his roots are anthropology in a modern sense. He uniquely ties his deep knowledge of technology, marketing, design thinking and design anthropology as a polymath to help clients seeking digital advantage in today’s complex world. Giles has been regularly interviewed by international news media on topics such as social media, blockchain, artificial intelligence and it’s impacts on society. He is a passionate practitioner of design thinking and anthropology. Giles is prolific writer and public speaker, lecturer and keynote. He has also completed over 250 netnographic research projects since 2009. His secondary activity is as Group Publisher with Human Media Inc.

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