Introduction

By 2025, companies will be spending 40% of their IT budget on maintaining technical debt.

Technical debt describes the cost of maintaining outdated systems as a cost-effective measure as opposed to investing in newer, more modern solutions. This can be intentional or unintentional.

When done intentionally, the choice may be one in favour of cost saving or maintaining a bespoke legacy system. Quick fixes are seen as ‘cost-effective’, but can turn into bugs, which require more fixes, resulting in higher maintenance costs.

 

By 2025, companies will be spending 40% of their IT budget on maintaining technical debt.

Maintaining legacy technology will inevitably cause technical debt due to the nature of the code and capabilities available at the time of development. Testing the system, integrating with newer applications, and increasing volumes of traffic can all impact performance and cost.

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Reducing Technical Debt

Reducing technical debt involves proper prioritisation and risk analysis, conducting code reviews, refactoring, maintaining documentation, enforcing code standards, investing in skill development, and implementing continuous improvement.

Addressing technical debt can be complex, but modernisation is key to removing it.

What are the Common Causes of Technical Debt?       

There are many types of technical debt, but it can be categorised in three ways, intentional, unintentional, and environmental.

Intentional technical debt is the deliberate decisions to not refactor code or embracing shortcuts for a quick result. These decisions typically emerge from a necessity to deliver something quickly and for a lower cost.

Unintentional technical debt is the accidental or unforeseen creation of code that is not up to standard due to strict deadlines or complexity in a project, leaving developers unaware of errors. An example of this is a design approach being implemented but turns out to be error prone. This would be seen as accidental as it was not done on purpose.

Environmental technical debt is debt that increases over time without active development from within the code itself, sometimes caused by operating system updates that leave functionalities not working properly.

Common causes of technical debt include:

  • Design decisions: if design decisions were made by developers when creating the code, they would have worked at the time, but are now no longer appropriate.
  • Low test coverage: if tests do not cover important functionality, or are outdated, or teams are not able to write unit tests, code bases are prone to bugs that need fixing, creating another cost for organisations.
  • Business needs: if deadlines are put before good code practices, it can affect the software in the future as it has not been prioritised.
  • Documentation: if IT staff do not document steps of a development process or project requirements, it creates technical debt as there is no evidence of what has previously been completed.

Why Manage Technical Debt?

There are a number of reasons why organisations should seek to manage their technical debt, including:

    • Improving software quality: poor software quality makes it hard to maintain and scale. Businesses can improve the quality of their software systems, including reliability and meeting business need by keeping track of their technical debt.
    • Reducing maintenance costs: as legacy systems become more outdated, they become harder to maintain over time, increasing the cost of maintenance.
    • Enabling innovation: technical debt can make it harder to implement new ideas or shift with market conditions. By managing the debt and modernising systems, organisations are better placed to scale and innovate.
    • Enhancing security: technical debt can lead to security risks that makes software more vulnerable and increasing attack surfaces for data breaches or cyber-attacks.

How to Reduce Technical Debt

There are multiple steps and routes organisations can take to reduce their technical debt.

Prioritisation

Organisations should prioritise technical debt resolution by carrying out analysis to target the modules with the highest potential impact, ensuring resources are allocated strategically to enhance security, compliance, and functionality. Creating a technical backlog will help track what needs fixing and when.

Working through this backlog, organisations can mitigate technical debt through incremental modernisation, methodically updating specific components or modules to minimise the risk associated with large scale migrations or code maintainability.

Automation

Another step that organisations can take is implementing automated tools for code analysis and refactoring to address technical debt. This helps streamline the process and minimise disruptions by removing bugs and improving code maintainability. Continuous integration and deployment can also utilise automated tools to streamline tests, code changes, and delivery. This ensures the end user has access to a working product version alongside DevOps teams to push changes quickly.

Training

To reduce knowledge gaps in running and using legacy systems, training initiatives can be critical. Ensuring features are documented, knowledge repositories are created, and teams feel empowered to navigate the mitigation of technical debt effectively.

It is also critical for organisations to keep a record of all changes so that technical debt does not occur again in the future, giving an overview of what has already been completed and the changes that are being made in real time.

Conclusion

Technical debt is inevitable for organisations who use technology, especially legacy software. Some technical debt occurs through conscious decisions, trying to reduce disruptions or limit new projects and costs. Others are unintentional, and can arise through a lack of infrastructure oversight.

However the debt arises, it is important that organisations are aware of it and can manage it.

Strategically managing technical debt within legacy software is important to remove the risks and challenges and turn them into opportunities for enhanced efficiency, improved security, and better productivity.

Responsiv Help Manage Technical Debt

Responsiv can support modernisation projects by providing:

    • Extended Support using Responsiv Assist to extend IBM support agreements when organisations are not ready to upgrade. Responsiv provide ad-hoc support, meaning organisations can utilise our skills as and when required.
    • Responsiv Consulting for expert skills to complete IBM software upgrades. We provide the licences and skills to upgrade to the most or more recent software.
    • Responsiv Cloud Automation Platform (RCAP) wraparound can be used to give your legacy screens a facelift, giving users an updated experience with the same technology underneath. This can also provide new integration capabilities to increase functionality and efficiency.
    • Managed service for Responsiv Cloud Platforms. This means we help develop, deploy, host, and manage customer spaces on the cloud, removing this responsibility from in-house teams.
Get in touch for more information about how Responsiv can support your legacy modernisation journey!

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