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Digital transformation: why you need to care about technical debt

Digital transformation: why you need to care about technical debt
Written by publishing team

I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase “digital transformation” before. It is a loose term used to describe the use and implementation of technology to improve efficiency, value or innovation.

As Hallam’s CTO, I often hear people talk about embarking on a digital transformation project. In my opinion, almost all companies do this all the time – whether they know it or not. Most of them are forced by the pace of customer expectations or technological change required to stay up to date with competitors.

If you work with a marketing agency to grow leads or revenue, or work with an IT company to improve technical infrastructure, you are transforming digitally. It’s a normal part of growing up on the digital maturity scale. However, while digital transformation projects are essential for growth, they can lead to hidden issues and challenges without proper guidance, especially when considering tech debt. So how do brands maintain their digital focus (and make money) while avoiding these potential pitfalls?

What is artistic debt?

As a developer who has since grown into a leadership role, one of the concepts I take for granted is technical debt. Technical debt is a bit like building a house when you have subsidence issues: it will cause cracks in the walls, slow you down from improvements, and eventually, may fall.

When starting a new venture on your supporting land, you have two options:

  1. Build on the degraded land/house, knowing that you will get your house faster but in the end you still have to act on landing at some point.

  2. He tackled the drop, slowed down construction, and eventually ended up with a safe house that wouldn’t fall.

The choice is very simple – you want a house that will stay high. The same goes for your digital systems.

Let’s go through three main scenarios I’ve encountered regularly throughout my career.

defer problem

It is very natural and common for companies to grow beyond the capabilities of their current systems. The challenge is that without working to improve those systems as they grow, they spend time patching vulnerabilities rather than doing their core business.

About 20 years ago I worked for one of the UK’s largest retailers using software that was 30 years old at the time. They’ve invested thousands of hours working on it while improving their other systems. I recently found out that they are still using this software after two decades since it is very difficult to replace the project.

In this case, what was lacking was the courage to embark on a very difficult but necessary project. How much time was wasted on alternative solutions that could have been invested in finding a more modern alternative?

Growth through acquisition

In some cases, companies that acquire new companies will keep their existing systems in place, rather than using the acquisition as an opportunity to modernize. Often this means having to support several systems for the same purpose, such as running two or three different CRMs.

If you have a single business with many platforms for handling leads, how can you quickly report how many leads you receive and what campaigns are created for them? You can do that, but it won’t be fast. Even worse, you’ll be using up a team member’s precious time to pull that data somewhere else, either automatically or manually. It’s all just wasted time.

The solution is not simple, but it is necessary: ​​consolidate your technology suite as part of the acquisition process.

Ineffective technical architecture

It is a very easy mistake to invest in a system and then implement it in the wrong place; I often see this when a specific business process functionality is embedded in an audience facing website.

An audience-oriented website is often thrown into the trash every few years and rebuilt using modern technology. If you are using this website to manage key business processes like inventory management and re-stocking, you will have to rebuild it every time. I worked with a relatively small SME with fewer than five employees who made this mistake; The difference between the cost of “tens of thousands” and the cost of rebuilding was “in the hundreds of thousands”.

By making sure that the business process functionality was on its own platform, this could have been avoided entirely.

What can i do about it?

There is no single solution to all of these problems: the solution will be different in almost every case because it depends heavily on the technology used.

The main thing is knowledge and experience: If you are familiar with the concept of technical debt, this is the first important step.

Tactics to avoid this can be left to the experts. Anyone with a background in IT or development should already be familiar with the principle and provide some guidance, and if you don’t have someone who can help with that, it’s much better to contact the experts. Just using the metaphor of landing, you wouldn’t try to do a DIY job in your home – don’t try it with your art debt either.

John Martin, Technical Director at Hallam.

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