“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
“What brought it on?”
“Friends,” said Mike. “I had a lot of friends. False friends. Then I had creditors, too. Probably had more creditors than anybody in England.”
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway, 1926
These lines from Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises”, reveal a lot about how companies can find themselves completely technically bankrupt. Technical debt, like monetary debt in many cases, does in fact first accumulate gradually and then suddenly. But unlike in Mike’s case, it will not come from “having a lot of friends,” but rather too few.
There are many definitions of what technical debt is and depending on who you ask you will get many different answers. The term was initially created by Ward Cunningham in 1992 as a metaphor to communicate the implied cost of future additional work caused by choosing easy or limited solutions in software development. The term has been greatly expanded throughout the years to include many other Information Technology (IT) areas as our digital world keeps growing and becoming more complex. In essence, technical debt is a concept in IT that describes the implied cost of the following:
- Expediting solutions by trading quality
- Maintaining solutions that cannot be supported and/or have become legacy systems
- Not having a plan to address solutions that have become obsolete
Some may say that technical debt is the IT equivalent of “kicking the can down the road.”
How Does Technical Debt Happen?
There are many reasons why an organization accumulates technical debt. At the root of it all is usually poor technological leadership and collaboration. The success of an organization depends mostly on the willingness and ability of team members to share information. It is essential therefore for IT organizations to harness the power of collaboration.
Technical debt can also rise from having too much complexity and/or not enough talent to handle it. It is not uncommon for many aspects of an IT organization to be completely siloed. At the rate technology moves nowadays, it does not take long for systems to become legacy or obsolete if they are not maintained properly and/or the people supporting them (again many times working siloed) leave the organization.
The best way to minimize technical debt is to organize DevOps teams. These teams, unlike in Mike’s case in Hemingway’s novel, must work together as true friends. DevOps is the combination of philosophies and practices that produce results by combining development, integration, testing, monitoring, feedback, deployment, and operations. All members of these teams collaborate through the same communication channels and work together through all the life cycles of the solution.
MarksNelson can help your organization get a handle on your technology and develop systems to keep your organization out of technical bankruptcy. Reach out to us today to learn more.