We have been receiving numerous inquiries and requests for guidance sessions on how to address technical debt over the past few months. The questions we are being asked not only cover how to address technical debt in terms of software development but also what to do with common-off-the-shelf software and hardware, as well. With a fast-paced, ever-changing technology landscape, enterprises are feeling the pressure to keep up and deploy both new technology and more technology. This approach creates technical debt that, if not properly managed, will accrue and lead to:
- Poor customer experience (CX). The use of older systems with poorer performance and dated user interfaces compared to the modern equivalents leads to a poorer customer experience.
- Loss of business opportunities. Older platforms may lack the capabilities of their modern counterparts and prevent the organization from capitalizing on new business opportunities.
- Increased costs. Increased operational and maintenance costs are incurred from allowing hardware and software assets to operate beyond end-of-service life.
- Less resilient and secure systems. Unsupported systems will not receive security and performance updates, and their continued use will come with the higher potential of security and performance issues occurring.
To become future fit, enterprises should control technical debt by establishing technology lifecycle management (TLM). Having an effective TLM process provides beneficial business outcomes such as improving CX, enabling innovation, reducing cost, and controlling risk.
There are several common challenges that organizations face when trying to establish an effective TLM process. TLM often struggles to:
- Demonstrate value. Those outside of the IT environment may struggle to see the business value of maintaining a technology inventory. There is a cost to managing it, both in the form of people and resources.
- Ensure process compliance. Teams, seeing this process as a potential delay or blocker to what they want to do, may find ways to evade TLM when the process doesn’t produce the result they want, and over time, this dissatisfaction may result in the TLM process being shut down.
- Avoid delays. There is great business cost in a TLM process that takes months; new technologies may be essential for an organization’s survival, and requests for new technology should be evaluated in a timely manner.
- Establish data governance. Maintain an inventory of vendors and technology products, as names are nonstandard, and redundancy can create a great degree of vulnerability.
- Implement automation. Mature TLM requires automation when operating on a scale over large and distributed organizations. Rather than using spreadsheets, Forrester recommends using a configuration management database.
There are key strategies for organizations to establish a successful TLM process. Forrester’s newly published report, Establish Technology Lifecycle Management To Control Technical Debt, highlights several fundamental steps for ensuring that your TLM process is successful in managing technical debt. Be sure to read the report and stay tuned for upcoming research on technical debt — and schedule an inquiry or guidance session on any of the topics in the report.
And be sure to check out the agenda for our Technology & Innovation North America event in September where we’ll be hosting an entire track dedicated to managing technical debt.