“Technical debt” is the sin of a company not investing in technology, which like not paying off a credit card, causes costs to spiral out of control. The theory goes, as the technical debt increases, projects take longer with more difficult and frequent problems. The cycle is repeated and feeds upon itself, causing harm and strife to companies that fail to maintain a standard of technology. Therefore, a company could reasonably conclude that the only sound business decision is to eliminate “technical debt” by prioritizing technology growth. However, it is only one consideration of a very complex problem. Luckily, problems like these have been solved for years. “Technical debt” is a simply a new way to state that there is “opportunity loss” when systems aren’t upgraded .
A standard to prevent technical debt is not explicitly stated and is inherently vague. This is troublesome because companies can also face overspending by leaning too far forward, innovating new technologies out of fear. Being the innovator can have burdensome costs if your business model now depends on discarded technologies like Betamax, HD-DVD, or AppleTalk. They are left paralyzed by indecision, stuck between the risks and costs of adapting early or the safety and thrift of integrating later.
Instead of waiting until the accumulated debt arrives, be bold and see where you can find opportunity instead of blindly chasing technology. Find a business impact that improves with new technology, create a small task force to test it, and determine if it can achieve a concrete goal. Technology is cheaper to implement, faster to setup, and more scalable than ever before. Gathering evidence, especially evidence that directly helps the bottom line, will help drive wise technology investment with enthusiastic executive support.
“Technical debt” is an easy way to state the dangers of underinvesting in technology. However, to build a complete narrative, stay engaged with the groups you’re supporting and give evidence of the new opportunities available by adopting new technology.