Why technical debt hinders digital transformation
WHEN companies run into IT problems and limitations, they usually opt for quick fixes instead of focusing on the long overdue systems overhaul that the business desperately needs.
This practice of borrowing time and resources is called technical debt and often accrues a very high interest.
Tight budgets, challenging timeframes, and unrelenting heads of departments have led numerous companies to choose the quick fix in the past — one that is now proving to be a significant stumbling block in their digital journey.
A recent survey by Accenture found that 70 percent of 1000 C-level executives surveyed attributed technical debt as a significant inhibitor of technological innovation, while 72 percent claimed it stands in the way of integrating newer tech into their operations.
This notion is also supported by an IDG and Insight Enterprise Survey, which finds 64 percent of executives blame their legacy infrastructure and systems as a hindrance to meaningful digital transformation.
Other factors include data security concerns, technology silos, budget restrictions, and differing priorities.
These challenges will eventually result in up to 51 percent of companies going through the digital transformation process to drop specific projects and continue to struggle within the modernizing ecosystem.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fixe when it comes to “fixing” the technical debt. It takes a considerable amount of time to get to the bottom of the problem.
Global lead at Accenture Adam Burden and his team, in a recent analysis of their survey published by MIT Sloan Management Review said that up to 67 percent of decision-makers would prefer to replace all of their core legacy systems completely.
“But 70 percent would like to keep their existing core systems as long as possible — and 50 percent wish they could have the best of both worlds.
“In other words, what leaders really want most is to enjoy all the benefits of new information technologies, such as being able to adapt quickly to new situations, while keeping their legacy systems humming,” they wrote.
However, Burden and his colleagues at Accenture believe told ZDNet that the way to keep the engine running while companies embark on unraveling these technical debts is a strategy they call “decoupling”.
# 1 | Decouple data from legacy systems
Executives are urged to migrate their data from the existing legacy systems to data lakes where it is stored in its raw format.
This type of storage infrastructure is versatile and allows for various types of analytical tools which in turn enables various other dashboards, visualizations, and big data processing.
# 2 | Decouple applications from the legacy infrastructure
A bundled application running on a legacy platform can be really inefficient.
Decoupling it from the platform may offer executives the freedom and flexibility to adjust the scale of offerings while accommodating different applications workloads.
# 3 | Decouple the business process systems from one another
Computations do not happen in one place anymore.
It may have been served strategic purposes during previous eras when companies needed different business processes to be clustered together, but now it might just restrict each system from “providing the most value.”
Thus, it makes more sense to decouple the process systems to be more nimble and agile.
# 4 | Decouple IT talent and budgets from traditional silos
Accenture’s analysts argue that the decoupling practice is something both IT and non-IT executives must embrace. IT personnel are often too siloed for a company to maximize their potential.
A cross-functional team that can serve both business and technology function helps boost performance.
Budget meanwhile should be focused on continuous maintenance and improvements instead of individual projects as long as business value remains the main focus.
On top of making IT expenditure more predictable, it prevents the accumulation of new technical debts for a company.