How to deal with technical debt to fully go through the gears of digital transformation

It’s an interesting conundrum that even as enterprise organisations are being urged to embrace digitalisation and move on from legacy applications and outdated platforms and processes, in reality, they can’t begin to invest wholeheartedly until they pay off their technical debt. Technical debt? In this context it’s the cost that organisations have to bear in order to maintain old systems.

For many it has built up over years, and it’s hampering efforts to modernise the technology stack and, for many, limiting business expansion. According to Forrester, technical debt typically consumes 70 per cent or more of the technology budget.

A degree of technical debt is to be expected. What developer hasn’t made a rapid decision to implement code that helps in the short term, but is never expected to meet long-term needs? It’s the refactoring of that option that has an implication both in terms of cost and time.

Paying off a technical debt in a piecemeal way - by replacing items of tired technology with new updated versions one-at-a-time – will just result in disparate platforms and, if companies are moving to edge networks, require a completely different management approach. The key is to accurately measure the debt, develop a clear plan for overhauling the technology infrastructure without disrupting the business and invest smartly with the long-term in mind. 

To get on the right path, there are some modernisation projects that deliver tangible rewards:

Cloud technology

Cloud adoption has become mainstream, with Gartner forecasting growth of 17 percent this year. Embracing a cloud strategy allows organisations to take advantage of best-of-breed solutions that assist in modernisation and reduce historical infrastructure management costs. And that’s not all – improved security is a factor, and opportunities for automation and orchestration allow skilled employees to be freed up to focus on driving future innovation.

Recent research found that companies which are good at automation are 2.5 times more likely to grow revenue faster than their competitors. 

Containerisation and microservices

The impact of microservices on software delivery and business growth, and reduction of complexity in continuous implementation and delivery (CICD) have considerable impact on reducing technical debt. The IT department can use containers to automate a more dynamic, high-velocity approach to managing applications. This hastens application development and improves delivery, releasing resources for future transformation projects.

Upgrade your DNS

The oft-overlooked domain name system (DNS), is necessary for application delivery, so upgrading it is also essential to digital transformation. Because DNS can simplify and aggregate multiple technologies, the ability of cloud and microservices infrastructure to auto-scale in response to demand is enhanced, allowing enterprises to quickly develop new services and boost user experiences.

Advanced technology requires a DNS foundation that supports high API call rates and fast change propagation to enable high-velocity infrastructure, which cannot be facilitated by traditional DNS solutions like legacy open source DNS servers or outdated DNS appliances.

According to Forrester, technical debt, including outdated DNS, DHCP and IPAM consumes 70 percent of the IT budget. IT teams should assess their DNS platform, ensure it has a modular architecture to support microservices and cloud, and check it’s purpose-built for automation and integration into the cloud, container, and microservices stack. It should offer fine-grained traffic controls that facilitate traffic automation and optimise infrastructure performance, and if it doesn’t, it’s time to look for a change.

Technical debt is not restricted to enterprises

Technical debt is a challenge not just for enterprises. Even industry-leading technology companies will find that projects to consciously prevent or remove technical debt can create new product features and improved service for customers. 

Two years ago, we implemented a large transformation project that involved a complete rewrite of our core software. Our technology was relatively new, but it was quickly becoming cost-prohibitive to add capacity in order to scale at the rate we needed to support customer growth. We knew that investing the time now would pay huge dividends for us.

This single project not only reduced our technical debt, but also brought immediate improvements to service for our customers. We were able to release new features that enhanced both security and performance, and with hundred-fold gains in our capacity we could support growth for the next decade.

Out of debt enables businesses growth

Essential to accelerating business growth is eradicating technical debt to free up resources for important initiatives. For IT leaders looking at a complex technology stack, it can be daunting to deal with the issue, but if the areas that carry the greatest debt can be identified at the start, and the projects that deliver the most value quickly determined, organisations will be on the right track to succeed.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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