5 Ways to Better Manage Technical Debt

There are specific topics that will get CIO and IT leaders to vent. Talk about show many spreadsheets bounce around through email, midyear budget cuts, or hundreds of projects everyone won't prioritize, and you'll get an earful. But there's one topic that will get them out of their seats and red in the face with anger. 

That topic is technical debt.

Technical Debt

Technical debt, oh my! For CIO leading transformation programs, technical debt represents the legacy ways of doing things and their underlying systems. Trying to improve user experiences, become more data-driven, migrate to the cloud, address security risk, increase the reliability of data integration workflows, improve data quality, or pretty much any major upgrade is slowed down by the weight of technical debt.

Three Examples of Technical Debt

There are a few reasons. First, there's technical debt and legacy systems they inherited and now must maintain and support. So, that's an easy target, especially if it's a mission-critical system that's been customized over the years, sitting on dated hardware without a reliable disaster recovery system. In other words, most ERPs that haven't found their way to the cloud.

Another source of frustration is just how hard it is to get the funding, technology team resources, and business stakeholders to prioritize upgrades. Some technologies come up every year during the budget season or when the PMO reviews new initiatives, but never get the priority. That frustration goes to anger every time the system has a major outage, and the CIO now must be on bridge calls, join war rooms, console IT employees that lost their weekends over the issue, and communicate with angry business users. Yeah, that sounds like fun.

Lastly, there's the technical debt we continue to create. For every hundred lines of code added, I'm willing to wager there's at least 30 percent of technical debt added. It's not all about developers with lousy coding practices or cutting corners to make a deadline. That's one source, but much of the technical debt comes from dependencies such as when system or library upgrades also require code changes. Or there's just a new and better way of implementing a function, and so the legacy model is now technical debt. Or the business is now expanding usage beyond its original goals, and now factors limiting performance, scalability, user experience, and security are all blocked by technical debt.

Managing Technical Debt Requires a Plan

So this is why I elected to dedicate Episode 10 of 5 Minutes with @NYIke on 5 ways to better manage technical debt. 

Over the years, I've published several articles on technical debt:

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.