Technical debt will sink you


The pandemic accelerated many large-scale digital transformations and drove growth in many technology businesses. Whether it was Instacart’s sales increase of 230% in 2020 over 2019, or Zoom’s revenue increasing 169% during the early days of the pandemic, many companies were forced to accelerate their digital transformations during the past 18 months.

This growth came at a cost, especially for Zoom. It was unexpected and attracted much attention to the company, leading to numerous cyberattacks, including “Zoombombings”—people intruding into Zoom meetings and flashing pornography or other inappropriate messaging.

Another cost is the technical debt of supporting digital application growth. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is the cost of developing an application plus the ongoing costs of maintenance, upgrades, and support. When you incur technical debt in an application, that debt has to be paid at some point. Technical debt is paid either once and for all by fixing or upgrading the application to remove the technical debt, or it’s paid over time by increased maintenance, support, and lost opportunity costs.

Technical debt makes it difficult for leaders to innovate and create new and improved customer experiences from their technologies. This stifled innovation means lower long-term revenue.

What is technical debt?

Technical debt is an increase in pending work required as a result of choosing an easier solution in the short term instead of a better solution that may be more difficult or more expensive to implement in the long term.

We are often faced with two options for getting a job done: Do the job completely or do it in a limited way that delivers against the short-term need but requires reworking at a later time. When we choose the latter, we increase technical debt, because the rework required later adds to our backlog.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.



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