Your Priority: 

Reduced Technical Debt

Whilst Software Development looks at Technical Debt as the result of prioritising speedy delivery over perfect code, in respect of the overall business landscape, the problem is far bigger. A company that spends more than half of its IT budget on areas such as integrations and fixing legacy systems is likely to be caught in this technical debt situation.

Technical Debt is probably the number one impediment to organisations being agile. Technical debt becomes a target of transformational business strategy when organisations seek innovation and modernisation but are held back by the ongoing cost of outdated legacy platforms and software. A company that operates on a modern IT Platform and has little or no technical debt is able to direct almost all its technology investment to new offerings. Technical debt issues can:

• Cause companies to be uncompetitive or slow to market
• Continue to increase the fixed costs of maintaining these systems
• Divert key resources from innovation and providing new customer services
• Cause application integration issues

Technical debt becomes a target of transformational business strategy when teams seek innovation and modernisation, but are held back by outdated legacy platforms and software. A company that operates on a modern IT platform and has little or no technical debt can direct almost all its technology investment to new offerings. Technical debt issues can:

• Cause companies to be uncompetitive or slow to market
• Continue to increase the fixed costs of maintaining these systems
• Divert key resources from innovation and providing new customer services
• Cause application integration issues

Reducing Technical Debt will result in multiple transformational activities. Poor management of technical debt can limit a company’s ability to understand the true value of Digital Transformation. Integrating old systems with new technologies can also cause problems and result in delay and increased cost. Without technical insight, there is a very real danger of spending too much time managing complexity rather than thinking innovatively about the future.

Reduced Technical Debt

NWT has a team that are experienced and knowledgeable in assessing and modernising a company’s IT platform, architecture, systems and processes. We have a Portfolio of Services that can help our clients undertake a programme of work that can help to solve the technology problems that are preventing successful implementation of the business goals. By initially understanding your overall IT landscape and by collaboratively working with you to understand how your legacy systems can be decoupled and transformed, we will help you to produce the right strategy and programmes of work to reduce risk and deliver the greatest business value and impact.

NWT has services that will help on this journey and will contribute in some way to helping you reduce technical debt:

Advisory & Design >

Technical Delivery >

Real World Examples

Not all companies understand that ignoring early-stage technology debt will result in much more resource consumption at a later stage, when there is no choice but to deal with the issue. Even large web-scale companies learn this the hard way, there is no shortage of technical debt horror stories to learn from.

Qantas

Australian airline Qantas has an IT shop, more than 50 years old. The company struggled with more than 700 applications, many written in old languages such as COBOL and FORTRAN. This aging infrastructure caused the need for some substantial and expensive upgrade projects. One of these was called Jetsmart, a parts management system. Qantas didn’t meet with its airplane mechanics to assess their needs. They assumed they knew well enough what to put in. The system was so unwieldy that the mechanics’ union told their members not to use the software. Disuse caused the $40M project to falter.

Qantas’ technical debt:

•Failure to make incremental upgrades on legacy systems, and instead waiting until the existing system was too complex and difficult to use.
•Not clarifying needs with users and key stakeholders.
•Absence of usability testing with real users.

HealthCare.gov

A critical piece of the Affordable Care Act, HealthCare.gov experienced long response times and service outages at launch. It only had 43% uptime. The system’s failure was so spectacular that less than three weeks after launch, President Obama and his Chief of Staff created a special team to rework the website. Deployment of the website did not include caching, a standard in website design. There was also insufficient hardware redundancy. A single data storage unit and switch failed during maintenance and stopped work for nearly five days. Also, no metrics or dashboards were available to verify the health of the system. The special team did this their first day on the job.

HealthCare.gov’s technical debt:

• No using best practices for backend development.
• No hardware redundancy.
• No performance or stress testing.
• No verification of performance requirements.
• Not backend monitoring to track the system and help the team maintain its health.

Microsoft

In 2013, when Microsoft launched a new SaaS version of Visual Studio, they were surprised to find their servers unable to handle the load that the millions of users generated on their new online service, because the system wasn’t built to handle such an influx of simultaneous requests. After a seven-hour outage, the company realized that it had erred in dealing with the product’s technical debt.

Technical debt lives in the code itself, the documentation, and in your libraries and frameworks. Managing technical debt will always be part of software development and other industries, too. As in finances, some manage it cautiously and wisely, while others drown in it. Either way, you have to pay it someday.