Overcoming tech debt on the path to modernization

Feb 08, 2022
Cloud Computing Enterprise Applications

Lack of visibility into what you have can stand in the way of cloud migration.

Companies that want to take advantage of cloud technologies are often flummoxed by the technical debt they’ve accumulated. They need to modernize their application stacks to respond quickly to competitive disruption, changing industry regulations, and new business opportunities. But the economic and technical challenges of modernizing legacy apps can seem daunting.

A group of IT practitioners, consultants, and influencers weighed into those challenges during an #IDGTechTalk Twitter chat on Jan. 27, sponsored by @USTglobal. Bottom line: the challenges aren’t new and the sooner you move to address them the quicker you can reap the benefits. (Just don’t get them started on documentation!)

Moderated by former CIO and author of Driving Digital, Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), the discussion quickly identified a big issue impacting mature companies and what to do about it:

Many legacy firms have apps that are 20-30 years old. Rearchitecting apps like that is challenging. And migrating an app like that the cloud can be doubly challenging. Make sure you have staff who are adequately trained. #IDGTECHtalk

Ben Rothke (@benrothke)

Application modernization is highly dependent on what the business thinks is important and what IT can support. Misalignment here without proper strategy at different levels opens up the doors to so many issues. #idgtechtalk

Arsalan Khan (@ArsalanAKhan)

Participants were eager to pinpoint the benefits of modernization:

#IDGTechtalk Employee productivity, risk mitigation, and cost efficiency

Joanne Friedman (@joannefriedman)

Efficiency, risk mitigation, happier teams (higher productivity), reduce technical debt, saving time….#IDGTECHtalk

sreinbolt (@sreinbolt)

Cost savings were viewed as a plus, but hardly the preeminent benefit:

Cost is part of the risk, but it’s often not the biggest driver around modernization. The key requires reimagining business processes so that you can build a modern workflow, not lift/shift. #IdgTechTalk

Isaac Sacolick (@nyike)

Yes, plus better app performance on users #mobile devices. Better #security. Fewer downtime moments and finally better #cx #idgtechtalk

Adam Stein (@apstein2)

Understanding what you have is key to understanding how to move forward:

#IDGTechTalk Application rationalization – knowing what needs to be deprecated, re-platformed, refactored or rearchitected. This sets you LOE as well as resourcing & timelines. Many take this on an “on demand” effort of urgency rather than what makes sense to chain.

Amélie E. Koran (@webjedi)

Start with an assessment and then start breaking down the monolith. Devised a phased plan focused on technology & budget milestones and then get to work. #IDGTechTalk

Will Kelly (@willkelly)

I agree – start with an assessment – especially from a customer/end-user perspective. Where’s the impact, then work on solutions #IdgTechTalk

Isaac Sacolick (@nyike)

Enterprises can start modernizing applications on many vectors: #security #storage #cloud #API #CX. Seeing #kubernetes control plane come into play more often to ensure #disaster recovery for #b2b application acceleration & modernization #idgtechtalk

Adam Stein (@apstein2)

Technical debt can often seem overwhelming when IT leaders ponder modernization:

Poorly developed code, fast patches without a forward looking lens and redundant code can create massive tech debt, so code reviews are a good place to start. Check out this infographic for more about technical debt #IDGTECHtalk…

UST (@USTglobal)

Startups often find themselves collecting endless technical debt resulting in impact on team agility & ability to remain fast in the short term. Key is to focus on business value, & ignore non-key thing that create too much technical debt.… #IDGTECHtalk

Ben Rothke (@benrothke)

A very non-technical answer: I boil it down to user satisfaction. How useful is application or infrastructure to the business in its mission to create value? #IDGTechtalk

Joanne Friedman (@joannefriedman) 

Don’t feel you have to go it alone:

Is your technical debt someone else’s cost of doing operations? Figure things out together with your business counterparts. Create a plan to reduce technical debt and showing ROI on moving to modern systems. #idgtechtalk

Arsalan Khan (@ArsalanAKhan)

Align with a partner whose core competency is understanding the fast-changing landscape. … one who listens to you and understands your goals and can lead your organization to ‘where the puck is going’ by ensuring you can scale for growth. #IDGTECHtalk

sreinbolt (@sreinbolt)

Then there’s the issue of documentation, which turned into one of the hottest hot buttons of this @IDGTechTalk:

Back in my technical writer days, I had more than one project when i had to “reverse engineer” documentation because a previous IT leader had that attitude.

Will Kelly (@willkelly)

I can imagine! The single most successful, performant, resilient team I ever worked with had a technical documentation specialist embedded deeply from day one. She was an absolute wizard, transforming whatever we said into real documentation… #idgtechtalk

Chris (@CPetersen_CS)

I feel like we need to have a whole chat on the future of tech writing and documentation. These insights from you, @ArsalanAKhan, and @nyike are very good! #idgtechtalk

IDG TECHtalk (@IDGTechTalk)

Click on any of the links above to delve into the @IDGTECHtalk at greater length.

And for more insights into how to move forward with modernization and transformation, including deep expertise in identifying and addressing technical debt, visit