Reducing Tech Debt, Part 2: Major Considerations for the Future of IT

Discover Opportunities Once Your Transformation Journey Begins

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For today’s IT organizations, how the future will evolve often depends on how handicapped they are by technical debt. Successful digital transformation requires moving at the speed of business, but significant technical debt makes moving into agile, DevOps delivery methods difficult. Whether it is the application itself or the toolset around the application, a legacy footprint may not be sufficiently current to move into anything other than a very ad-hoc or de minimis approach to modern delivery, says Barry Brunsman, principal, CIO Advisory at KPMG.

“For example, your chance of being able to move at market speed when you’re dealing with an ERP solution that is 20 years old is highly unlikely,” he explains. “In addition, your ability to attract talent and effectively manage talent in a new technology age, when you’re hiring people to work on a 15-year-old technology, is also unlikely.”

So how can you reduce your technical debt related to legacy systems and move towards a vibrant, value-filled IT future? Keep these three major considerations in mind:

1. IT leadership needs a long-term strategic plan. 

“I often see clients where the leadership doesn’t have a clear plan of how they will reduce their technical debt and bring in long-term IT modernization,” says Priya Emmanuel, managing director of cloud strategy and transformation at KPMG. “Many decisions are still made in silos to solve a current problem, instead of thinking about a long-term strategy that underpins the overall business need and digital transformation.”

2. Carefully construct the transformational agenda.

Certainly, says Brunsman, organizations simply need to pay off their technical debt, by spending to make key aspects of the technical environment current. But currency, he warns, doesn’t necessarily generate new business value. “However, pay-down of technical debt can become, essentially, a tax that is part of a broader transformative agenda,” he says. Carefully constructing the transformational agenda is key, including a balance between costs that gets the organization current and investment that drives growth. “You can blend those together to accomplish a couple of different objectives,” he says.

3. Take advantage of opportunities that evolve from technology debt.

Technology debt can create aspects of an operating model solution that an organization might not otherwise consider, says Brunsman. For example, with an enormous technology debt in infrastructure, the organization could seek an outsource provider that takes on aspects of infrastructure and, at the same time, closes the technical debt gaps.

“Basically, you sell the technical debt by moving the responsibility for closing the gaps to an outside provider, which in and of itself could create some business value,” he explains. “Then, you can use that new outsourced platform as a basis for other opportunities to capture business value.”  

Parts of the operating model solution, in this case, are actually triggered by aspects of technology debt. “Perhaps the idea of sourcing their technical infrastructure is something that hadn’t been considered until it was seen as a solution to a technical debt problem,” he adds.

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