Tangent Solutions believes in partnering for success to deliver value and purposefully manage as well as mitigate the impact of technical debt. Tech debt is the exponential accumulation of tech issues and the resulting impact of dated IT practices, methodologies, processes, applications, legacy hardware, and infrastructure on businesses.

The result is organisational inertia, exposing the business to internal risks in terms of sustainability, security and customer retention. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the risk of tech debt, and with purposeful management, minimise and recover from it.

One can find similarities in the tech debt premise akin to financial investments. As an individual, if one had invested in the right stock (in this case, IT and cloud hosting), at the right time (let’s say the business’s last on-premises renewal cycle), one could have had gains of up to 100% (when viewed in terms of the true cost of ownership [TCO]) over the past five years. Instead, the business is still battling legacy IT issues.

  • Utilising financial resources for server rooms, electricity, outdated back-ups and disaster recovery practices, incongruent with the business’s needs.
  • Manually enforcing governance and security at the level of sophistication required in relation to today’s cybersecurity challenges.
  • Manually patching, managing, and maintaining infrastructure as well as operating systems, increasing inefficiencies alongside the pressures of retaining scarce skills and escalating labour costs.
  • Overprovisioning server infrastructure 24/7 for worst case scenarios equates to unnecessarily higher costs. As this scale of availability is only required for 5% of the year.
  • Missed opportunities to refactor renewal cycles and reallocate resources relating to computing tech and licencing due to outdated operating models.

At the same time, technology continued to evolve.

  • Most software updates occur on an iterative basis.
  • Operating systems no longer support legacy technology.
  • The world moved to a hybrid working model, and with it, workforce habits shifted to become primarily digital.
  • Consumer engagements with businesses evolved to become increasingly digital.
  • Astute businesses reinvested, redeployed, and upskilled their workforce for the digital economy.

Left behind or ahead of the curve?

As such, IT’s role has mutated to become a critical business enabler, delivering the infrastructure on which the digitised economy is driven. As every engagement is increasingly realised through this digital economy, it is poignant to question ITs strategic positioning and utilisation within the company alongside its ability to enable business objectives?

  1. Broaden the business’s understanding of IT’s role in stakeholder experience

As technology evolves, the way businesses and consumers interact and utilise digital assets organically shifts in response. As a result, technology morphed from something the IT department fiddled with to being the underlying architecture of business enablement.

Today, every department works on some form of software application that enables them to perform their business function. In turn, these application’s need to integrate or be manually updated to deliver on business objectives.

A well architected cloud enabled ecosystem will position a business to deliver strategic value to all stakeholders while creating business agility and resilience.

  1. Align technology choices to business strategy by investing appropriately from the start

Strategically invest with the end state in mind. If a business’s goal is to increase workforce efficiencies, cybersecurity, automate governance and ensure compliance while enabling a smoother consumer experience. The company’s plans and resourcing should reflect this through investing in technologies to enable this state.

It also means taking a measured and pragmatically diverging approach to ICT. Reassessing the current environment and thinking differently are critical to development. The digital economy is driven by newer technologies, methodologies, practices, and processes. As a result, a business’s ICT strategy needs to follow suit.

3. Redefine legacy understanding of IT costs and operational management

By redefining the department’s strategy, the way IT is funded will organically evolve. The reallocation of funds from an outdated hosting model to an automated and scalable hosting model adds value in two ways. Firstly, through the mitigation of onerous financial requests and secondly through the redistribution of saved funds.

Reinvesting and updating computing technology renewal cycles will better position the business’s competitiveness within the digital economy. An economy built on instant delivery and rife with similar possibilities.

Outdated technology and operational models are some of the root causes of tech debt. “Due to budget constraints, enterprises try to stretch the life of the hardware they use but, at the end of the day, they end up costing the business more due to technical debt,” says Dave Nel, Managing Partner of Tangent Microsoft Cloud at Tangent Solutions and Microsoft Regional Director.

  1. Implement a cloud first operating model and prep legacy applications for the cloud

Businesses are at a point where implementing a solid cloud operating model is imperative to business continuation, agility, security, and resilience. This preparation should be deployed sooner to avoid further tech debt risks and losses. Implementation based on industry best practices in the form of tried and tested solutions is critical whether a business is currently in the cloud, utilising on-premise servers or operating a hybrid model.

Developing a cloud first business built with the future in mind requires a pragmatic culture, alongside a skilled and knowledgeable team that can adequately navigate and implement the elements of a cloud first approach.

One of the key challenges in this process is how a business can handle the migration of legacy applications (systems) to the cloud. Mismanagement of this component could set a business back further. Simply moving a legacy system to the cloud will only compound the system’s current issues. Moreover, to do this correctly, it is important to remember that this iterative process is a relay, not a sprint.

The continued inertia of legacy applications can be avoided by preparing the ecosystem for legacy system decoupling. Utilising a measured migration and modernisation process, such as implementing an API ringfenced environment, allows a business to start reaping the benefits of a cloud environment as soon as possible. The company can then strategically and systematically upgrade business systems to reach the organisation’s strategic cloud objectives.

5. Choose an expert partner that suits the business’s critical strategic requirements

There are many ways a business can migrate its operations to the cloud. Although not all methodologies will deliver value, in fact, some will increase technical debt and continue to escalate, diminishing the ROI potential the cloud offers. It is thus critical to selectively partner with experts that focus on enabling the identified strategic business outcomes.

As a result, the right partner is a core consideration in ROI realisation. In addition, the right partner will also assist in effective cost management and ensure the business benefits in the long-term from all the ‘itys’ of cloud computing.

The accumulative effects of tech debt

“Uncontrolled technical debt and choosing short term gains over quality, agility and sustainability – ultimately prevents a company from being able to compete, innovate and adapt to industry changes. But the greatest cost of technical debt is performance and growth, alongside unrealised potential and opportunities lost.”

“When using Microsoft Azure, architected correctly, our clients are guaranteed a better delivery, faster turnaround time, enhanced flexibility, disaster recovery and security.”

“The bottom line is that technical debt, with all its nuances and impact on velocity, accumulates very quickly for companies of all sizes. It is all about making informed decisions and investing in the correct technology at the correct time,” concludes Nel.

Tangent Solutions is a company that takes a pragmatic approach to information technology design. As a solutions provider Tangent encourages businesses to invest in technologies and DevOps methodologies that enable them to remain competitive. It’s time to think differently when it comes to a company’s IT cloud infrastructure, as taking a legacy operating model, without questioning traditional practices leads to negative consequences in the long term.

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