The New Business Norm: Technical Debt

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has brought about significant changes in the way large businesses manage their technology. This unforeseen transformation presents an opportunity for companies that have yet to address any existing technological debt to do so quickly. This shift in the corporate paradigm is one that is likely to endure beyond the pandemic and therefore should not be overlooked.

In the past, the primary responsibility of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) was to ensure the lights stayed on. The IT department was run with a focus on cost reduction and the CTO was responsible for the company’s procurement strategies. Whilst it is likely that the CTO was aware of any technological debt within the organization, it was likely accepted as the norm before the introduction of cloud infrastructure and Agile methods.

If the wrong incentives are in place, it is possible for a misalignment of strategy to occur at the lower levels of an organization. In today’s economy, business executives have a pressing need to develop their product roadmaps in order to generate revenue; however, when their objectives differ, they require procurement to be able to adjust quickly. Unfortunately, this is where things can go awry: procurement is still primarily focused on containing costs, meaning it is managing the resources required for strategic digital transformation in the same way it would purchase office furniture.

Dealing with Technical Debt

Recent developments have significantly altered the existing state of affairs. Some organizations which specialize in enterprise technology have managed the transformation effortlessly, however others have encountered difficulty in adjusting to the regular changes in corporate strategy. A minor but significant alteration, such as the transition from physical stores and courier services to door-to-door deliveries, could have considerable ramifications on a firm’s digital plan and product plans if its leaders are not quick to adapt.

Three types of “technical debt” that conventional CTOs can no longer ignore:

  1. There is no expense associated with technology. As Chief Technology Officer, it is essential to focus on staying ahead of the digital trends and driving change, rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day operations. When making decisions on product roadmaps and looking at the potential of the market, annual budgets are not the only factor to consider. Whilst there are still operational duties to be taken into account, it may be beneficial to outsource some of these tasks to be managed as services.
  2. Corporations in the IT industry may function independently of one another in terms of office space. For a while now, many small businesses have been embracing the idea of having remote teams, but until recently, the traditional corporate office had not been pushed to reconsider their approach.
  3. The procurement process is sluggish, unreliable, and not aligned with business goals. Chief Technology Officers are in a key position to lead the shift away from the traditional, lengthy process of procuring services, which can take months to complete. In comparison, the development of a minimum viable digital product can be achieved in a matter of weeks. As a result, some company executives are taking a more ‘rogue’ approach, bypassing the formal procurement process in order to make quicker digital alliances. While this may provide short-term benefits, it can also pose a serious threat to scalable business processes, which are essential to an organization’s growth and development. Therefore, it is important that CTOs are the voices of change, and that company heads are encouraged to take the necessary steps to ensure their business processes are robust and scalable.

It is essential to recognize technical debt for what it is, break it down into individual tasks and start to tackle it. Despite the fact that business continuity plans are commonplace, the long-term repercussions are often neglected. The current COVID-19 crisis is likely to last for months, if not years, so our current action is likely to become our permanent strategy.

It is hoped that many businesses have already successfully navigated these challenging times, and that the current situation will act as a catalyst for a company-wide, top-down strategy realignment.

Please explain how we are helping.

  1. As the only viable option for major organisations to remain competitive, we are partnering with our customers to rapidly expand their teams in order to make strategic changes in their business model. This collaboration allows us to provide the necessary support needed to ensure that our customers are able to remain competitive in today’s market.
  2. Work’s expansion plan has always been focused purely on the recruitment of the best possible talent, regardless of where they are from. We did not expect to have to focus on providing this service as a means of ensuring our customers’ business continuity, however, the current situation has presented us with an opportunity to do so.
  3. Together with our corporate clients, we provide consistent outcomes that may drive transformation inside an organisation.

This is a period of contemplation for large organizations as they assess their existing procurement strategies, ultimately deciding to move away from practices that have been employed for years. Difficult decisions are being taken but new partnerships are being developed, based on compassion and tangible results.

I’m excited to do all I can to assist my colleagues in the industry in meeting these problems head-on.

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