The time-old tale of technical debt: how can the problem be solved?



by Andy Brierley, General Manger, UK at Rackspace Technology

With an impending global recession, IT leaders’ strategic priorities are changing. Decisions will no longer focus on technology preference but will be driven by the need for companies to improve their operational expense savings and cash retention position.

Technical debt is one area of the IT estate that continues to increase the operational expense of IT teams while offering little to no commercial advantage.

It requires more personnel to maintain existing systems and additional developer time to bring about new capabilities, while also preventing companies from adapting quickly to opportunities and changes in the market.

In many instances, a company’s technical debt has been handed down by generation after generation of CIO – often due to concerns around migrating critical systems, or because the business case was just never a priority. However, nearly two decades on from when the term ‘technical debt’ was first coined, few firms can continue to ignore how it continues to erode their budgets.

The challenge for organisations

All businesses evolve based on the opportunities available to them, what their competitors are doing, and what their customers want from them. This need to constantly develop can lead them to implement a quick fix solution to keep up with the industry, as opposed to thinking of what is viable in the long term.

The technical debt incurred can lead to a halt in digital transformation, as whole budgets aimed at tackling technical debt have been drained through the implementation of further short-term solutions, while the debt remains.

Maintaining legacy applications can result in cost losses for businesses, meaning the greatest challenge for them is to get to a state of application modernisation which will allow them to reduce costs, while making sure they are implementing a long-term solution.


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This is one effective way of beginning to tackle that technical debt, and many firms are therefore looking to a partner that can support them in the application modernisation process, while their own team continues to focus on other business priorities.

Public cloud’s potential

According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud services market is forecast to grow by 17% in 2020. Many organisations will choose to migrate to public cloud because it offers an agile solution, which can provide reduced costs and increased innovation.

Public cloud offers a long-term solution to application management. Once defunct applications are rewritten onto the public cloud, the application management process evolves to become more agile.

Applications in the public cloud cannot start reaccumulating technical debt because, as the platform continues to modernise, those defunct applications that are not updated may stop working entirely.

Migrating to a cloud infrastructure which manages this automatically will ensure that organisations are not implementing a quick fix which will incur technical debt.

Achieving cost optimisation

Cloud adoption is a complex undertaking for a business of any size, let alone an organisation already focusing its operations on resolving its technical debt. Working with a partner to shift towards a cloud native model may be the answer to this problem.

Service providers can manage the heavy lifting of the cloud migration and application modernisation, enabling the IT team within the business to focus their time on value-add and strategic activities.

This will not only solve the issue of pervasive technical debt but will establish a more agile foundation for innovation and growth for the future.

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