Whiskey and Wisdom: Burning down ITOps’ technical debt

3 min read
Time Indicator

Whiskey and Wisdom is a monthly executive forum where ITOps leaders can network and discuss high-level AIOps and ITOps strategies with industry peers.

In our most recent session, the discussion focused on the burden of technical debt and what ITOps leaders can do to deal with it once and for all. Here are some quick value takeaways from the conversation:

In the world of IT, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid what we refer to as “technical debt.” This can be caused by any technologies that are aging or out of date and consume resources without providing the same value they once did. The definition of technical debt can vary, but hindering innovation and restricting budgets are just a couple of examples of how technical debt can affect a business. With new technologies being frequently introduced, avoiding technical debt can be challenging.

Technical debt has a different impact on every organization, so we sat down with a few IT leaders to discuss their thoughts during our latest Whiskey and Wisdom session. One example that was presented is the cost of reworking a process. Choosing an “easy” solution—instead of one that might take longer but is more sustainable—to rework something is far more costly in both time and budget in the long run. Technical debt can inhibit modernization, increase security vulnerabilities, and hinder your ability to address those risks. It also can present supportability challenges as employees depart or even retire, especially if no one is left to pass on the knowledge of the legacy technology. Technical debt has plagued IT leaders since the dawn of IT, but what can be done about it?

There are several ways to combat technical debt, such as having a deep understanding of your technical stack. Another strategy is to create a set of options for when you’re thinking about moving on from a tool or piece of technology, including:

  • Retire it
  • Upgrade it in place
  • Move it to the cloud (might only be a partial reduction)
  • “Ring-fence” it: limit exposure and let it die peacefully (doesn’t resolve security risks)

For more advanced technical debt, a team can sometimes get stuck with an older, more outdated piece of technology when there’s no real owner within the organization. This technology might be running a critical business process but sitting on aging infrastructure. Without a plan or strategy to upgrade or modernize it, it can hinder the organization in the long run. No matter your approach to technical debt, finding a solution that works for your business is crucial.