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Short term tactics can make long term technical debt

News & Blog

My favorite class in business school was about business strategy. It met late on Thursdays, not wrapping up until 10 pm. As we finished our study of each business case, the professor would summarize the lesson learned. The “moral of the story” as it were. I wrote every summary down on a legal pad and carried that list with me for years. Referred to it often. One summary, in particular, has come up over and over in my years in business and technology, “Don’t let short term tactical decisions define your long term strategy.”

What’s technical debt?

Technical debt is a “concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. Typically, technical debt isn’t thought of as impacting business features or functionalities.” Sometimes it doesn’t directly. But in the end, there is always a cost to your business. And like financial debt, if unpaid it will accumulate and eventually must be paid.

Technical debt is normal

Moving quickly to develop a new application or launch a new web site often produces technical debt. If you wait for perfection, someone else will surely beat you to market or you will miss your deadline. Most budgets don’t fund that kind of perfection. But if you don’t have a plan to address technical debt in an ongoing way, add it to the pile and ratchet up your risk a notch.

Persistent neglect is never benign

Planning and budgeting for ongoing maintenance or updating your application with modern techniques may not be sexy, but it will save you money, headaches, and maybe even your brand’s reputation in the long run.

Improving scalability, remediating code to ensure updates can be applied, extending logging, implementing added monitoring, developing automated regression tests aren’t sexy (well except to us technology nerds) and often aren’t something you can provide a slick demo of but when something goes wrong in these areas it has very real costs.

What’s the value of your brand’s reputation if a defacement is the result of an unpatched plugin vulnerability? If you are not regularly attending to updates and security matters, your technical debt is mounting. Is it important for your users to experience fast response times as they visit and use your site, application or mobile app? Do you have a plan to review your site for ADA accessibility and your risk – not just usability risk but also a legal risk – in an ongoing way? Are you periodically assessing your site’s performance and updating it for advances in browser versions?

It’s not too late

Make a plan to stay on top of and address your technical debt, preferably in an ongoing way. Identify it and fund addressing it, even it if isn’t sexy. This way you can allocate reasonable resources on a predictable schedule, planning your priorities, and tackling your list in advance.

There are many aspects you can engage a trusted vendor for:

  • Consulting and assessment of your technical risk exposure,
  • Patching and updates,
  • Ongoing ADA accessibility assessments and remediation,
  • Robust hosting for scalability and performance, and
  • Enhanced monitoring

Even if you’ve inherited a super fragile website or totally nonfunctional application and the debt seems insurmountable, you can even start over or have a phased rebuild.

Web Teks can help, contact us.


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