Shedding technology debt is like rebuilding a home with the family inside: It can be done, but it takes planning and help.

How often do you or someone in your organization suggest, “Let’s just get rid of legacy systems?”

Of course, it would be nice to be rid of them, shut down the company for a few weeks, and then start from scratch with the most advanced, responsive and intelligent systems available.  That isn’t a realistic action for most organizations, though.  These inflexible, costly, but usually reliable dinosaurs are still in use because it is so difficult to replace them. And when you are trying to reduce your technology debt, you need to figuratively rebuild the home while the family is still inside. That requires a step back.

To effectively tackle technology debt, you’ll need to plan strategically across the various technology platforms, processes and people, and that requires answers to some basic but important questions. These include:

  • What is your company’s past, present and future business model?  This includes understating how the organization segregates its IT and product portfolio based on customer experience, determining what products and services need to be maintained and figuring out how the company can balance the needs and expectations of its long-term customers with its new customers.
  • How can your company address older technology architectures and associated processes that are creating unnecessary drag on the balance sheet? This plan needs to address both the strategy for eliminating technology debt while transferring any value in existing systems to the new technology.
  • What market services can the organization adopt, buy or build?  The pendulum has largely switched from a buy-and-hold approach to technology to an asset-light approach, but it also invites a discussion of partnering with other companies in a digital ecosystem.
  • Which decisions should the company revisit in six months or a year?  This is the reminder to check on the progress an organization is making, and also to focus on its long-range plans.

If this sounds daunting, it shouldn’t.  Businesses are doing it—often with outside assistance–and reaping the benefits.

For example, we worked with a global insurance client to help create their application strategy across more than 26 countries, identify best-of-breed technology across various platforms and make changes to their overall IT capabilities. Formulating an overarching technology strategy enabled the insurer to significantly identify and reduce technology debt across the estate.

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