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Understand your technological debt

Putting a price to your technological debt can transform your ability to future-proof your business.
There’s a concept in software development that is spilling over in to business management: helping us all to better understand and plan our wider IT development.

‘Technical debt’ is a well-known term in the development community. It means that you’ve put a solution in place that you know isn’t perfect. Often due to time pressures or other restrictions, it can be a practical or unavoidable decision. But you know that, in the future, you’re going to have to work around this imperfect bit of code. And that comes at a price. The more-central the bit of code, the harder it will be to repair, replace or work around later.

Can you see the parallels with your business technology?

It might be hard to put a figure on, but there are ongoing costs to the infrastructure decisions we make – well beyond the purchase price:

Maintenance & updates
Running costs
Office space
Staff time
So, if we decide to put a solution in place that we know is not the best – as we all do sometimes – we must factor a further ‘debt’ in to our future planning.
Extra staff time ‘working around’ difficulties
Early redundancy as technology grows and develops
Future upgrades and development will be more expensive
The more central this imperfect tech is to our systems, the bigger that debt will be. So, it goes without saying that knowing, and understanding, the costs will help you to manage them. Like any debt – you should plan to pay it off gradually. You need to know what the ‘interest’ payments are likely to be – that is, the extra price of living with, using, and replacing your tech.

Industry experts tell us that the cost of replacing a less-than perfect system will ALWAYS be more than that of getting it right first time.

The good news is that cloud technologies inherently have lower technological debts, especially compared to traditional or on-premise IT. You know they won’t outdate, and there are far fewer overheads; so, some of that debt is eliminated straight away. You don’t accumulate hardware. You don’t have to find office space for equipment that will need replacing in a few short years’ time. There’s no maintenance, and far fewer management costs.

No sensible person would take a pay-day loan at 1000% interest. And, when you needed a mortgage to buy a house, I bet you shopped around for the best deal. That’s the message today. Treat your technological debt the same as any other loan re-payment. Understand it, and manage it.

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