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Strategies for Eliminating Technical Debt

Posted: Mar 2024

For business decision-makers, technology is no longer just a support system; it’s the engine driving growth and innovation. But this engine can sputter and cough if you ignore a hidden enemy: technical debt.

Think of technical debt as shortcuts, workarounds, and temporary fixes accumulated over time. They might seem harmless initially, but left unchecked, they become a tangled mess, slowing development, increasing costs, and ultimately jeopardizing your business goals.

“Technical debt is like a credit card you use to pay for things today, but with interest that you have to pay tomorrow,” explains Robert Glass, a software engineering expert at Carnegie Mellon University. “If you don’t manage it carefully, it can quickly spiral out of control and become a major burden on your organization.”

So how do you tackle this lurking threat? Here are key strategies:

1. Measure and prioritize strategically:

Don’t just quantify technical debt, understand its impact on your business. Similar to the construction industry example of outdated single-application systems slowing down projects, translate technical issues into real-world consequences for your organization. Assess each debt item based on its impact
on critical workflows, security vulnerabilities, and potential compliance risks. Focus on high-priority areas that directly hinder your business goals.

2. Build a long-term vision:

Move beyond project-level fixes and embrace
roadmapping and strategic planning. Align technology advancements with long-term
business objectives to prevent new debt from accumulating. Foster a culture of
continuous improvement and prioritize investments in modern, scalable solutions
instead of short-term patchwork fixes.

3. Collaboration is key:

Don’t silo technical debt within the IT department. Involve product managers, business analysts, and even executives in understanding the impact and co-creating solutions. Similar to how construction companies benefit from collaboration between skilled trades and technologists, encourage open communication and cross-functional collaboration to ensure everyone is aligned on the importance of
addressing technical debt.

4. Invest in expertise and tools:

Proactive planning requires skilled professionals and the right tools. Consider partnering with technology specialists or hiring dedicated talent like software engineers or CTOs to address complex debt issues. Invest in training, knowledge sharing, and tools that promote good IT infrastructure practices, preventing
new debt from accumulating.

Embrace continuous improvement:

Remember, addressing technical debt is an ongoing journey, not a one-time fix. Implement practices like regular technical debt assessments to track progress and adjust your strategy as needed. Utilize automation tools for tasks like infrastructure provisioning and testing to free up resources for
strategic work.

Remember: Addressing technical debt isn’t just about technical fixes; it’s about building a foundation for sustainable growth and innovation. By adopting these strategies, you can transform your technology infrastructure from a liability into a strategic asset, driving your business forward with agility and efficiency.

Taking control of your technical debt isn’t just fixing the past; it’s investing in a future where your technology becomes a trusted partner, not a hidden obstacle.

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