The ongoing digital transformation is no easy business. Planning and optimizing it requires a lot of effort from an organization and adds to the already daunting challenges of an IT department. One such challenge that digital transformation exacerbates is technical debt. The pressure to digitalize an organization within a certain timeframe and budget constraints can lead to rushed decisions and solutions that are far from being technically ideal. Decision makers might be forced to cut corners, but in the meantime, they should gear up for the inevitable roadblocks they will eventually run into.
Technical debt refers to the deferred cost of extra maintenance and rework incurred when a solution that is easier to implement in the short run is chosen over the best overall solution in the long run.
It involves sweeping the nasty stuff under the rug and promising yourself to deal with it at a later time. Technical debt is a manifestation of mismatch in an organization-mismatch between resources and goals, between IT practices and strategy, between the target architecture and the existing one.
First of all, technical debt slows down innovation and growth as it takes resources away from activities that create business value: IT departments spend 38 percent of their resources on tasks related to dealing with technical debt. These are the same resources that would otherwise be used for value creation activities for the company and its customers.
Secondly, technical debt brings about a fragmented structure where different portions of the system are not in sync with each other. This creates bottlenecks and severely handicaps the scalability of the overall system.
Lastly, technical debt increases the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of a product. The slow down in iterations during product development, increased need for testing and rework, and higher frequency of complaints and support tickets all contribute to a spike in the total cost of ownership.
Completely eliminating technical debt is neither easy nor feasible considering the amount of resources such an ambitious attempt would require. Every change in code creates debt. Therefore, the more realistic approach would be to try to contain technical debt and have a plan in place regarding how it will be paid down.
The focus should be on the simplification of processes, getting rid of redundant software and investing in high-impact measures. No-code platforms do just that. Their level of abstraction reduces system complexity to a level that is easier to manage. In addition to the high level of abstraction built into them, these tools can actively help deal with the shadow IT arising from hundreds of different apps being used in an organization at any time. After conducting a triage and deciding which apps get to stay and which need to go, citizen developers can leverage no-code tools to replace the purged apps with ones that are much better in terms of security, integrations and scalability.
There is one caveat, though. Dealing with technical debt is not something that can be undertaken on a whim - there needs to be a long-term strategy and the IT department should oversee the whole process. Without the IT oversight, integration of no-code tools will add to the shadow IT problem instead of curing it. The IT giving its sanction to the no-code platforms that will be used and making periodic interventions to pay down any resulting technical debt would be the ideal case.