Going bespoke: the answer to breaking the legacy debt cycle
Iouri Prokhorov, CEO and Founder, Helastel, discusses how one of the biggest causes of technical debt is legacy technology as company’s hemorrhage money trying to maintain outdated solutions which at the same time hamper the service they are able to provide to customers.
Technology, particularly how we can use it to streamline operations, enhance security and drive profits, is probably the most talked-about topic in business today. Even more so since the pandemic sent digital adoption to the moon.
From remote working to market intelligence and a lot more in between, technology underpins almost every aspect of business, and pushing the envelope with innovation is often regarded as the key route to success. Business leaders are constantly bombarded by urgent messages to invest in ‘trending’ technologies in order to recover from the pandemic, maintain growth, and keep up with the enterprise elite. A quick glance at your LinkedIn feed or trade press headlines will provide some evidence of that.
Indeed, while there is a wide realization of the need to invest in technology today, the most advanced and dominant businesses are those that have taken risks on ground-breaking technology, repeatedly and consistently. Whether artificial intelligence (AI), cloud technology, personalization, or automation, market leaders are not settling; they continue to adopt and innovate.
That said, experimental approaches to adoption are a high-stakes luxury enjoyed by those with big budgets and secure backing, or ambitious challengers with experienced tech pedigrees and a clean slate. Most other businesses take a more cautious, piecemeal approach. Often, though, the understandable reluctance to migrate to new technology results in outdated ‘legacy’ technology that’s kept running longer than it should be; the scattered installation of disparate applications here and there; and the continual, laboured customization of off-the-shelf products to the point that they become cumbersome and unintuitive. All these systems – siloed, outdated, complex, asynchronistic – have become increasingly costly to maintain.
Weighed down by technical debt
In a digital-first world, these organizations (that is to say, the majority) are now finding themselves struggling in an IT quagmire of their own making. A recent study revealed that more than two in three IT leaders see snowballing technical debt as a major threat to their companies’ ability to innovate, while a quarter of IT budgets are spent on addressing technical debt. For enterprise companies, it’s closer to $4 in every $10.
To continue putting coins into broken machines is not an option. The last 18 months have shown just how crucial information technology now is for businesses to function remotely, ensuring they meet customer expectations and remain secure. According to Tech Nation, 10% of all current UK job vacancies are now for tech jobs, while the use of automation, robotics, and AI has grown by a massive 30% since March 2020.
So how do business leaders break from the legacy IT cycle to start embracing the benefits of new technology? For one, they must make a concerted decision to migrate from legacy systems and stick to it. However, they must also realize that technical debt is a fact of any tech investment. The focus should be on minimizing it.
If businesses want to make the most of new solutions and move away from legacy technology, they need to avoid falling into a trap of putting in place off-the-shelf platforms with big overheads that don’t provide them with precise solutions. In these cases, platforms will quickly gather technical debt due to being restrictive and tied-in to a single provider.
When it’s time to team up
Every company has unique requirements for their technology and will therefore need unique solutions to meet their objectives. Firms should look to find technologies that can cater to their specific needs, and developing bespoke solutions is one way to do this. Creating platforms that are designed for an individual company reduces the likelihood of quickly gathering technical debt, and increases the chances of recouping investments as they derive efficiencies for that organization and its customers.
For organizations wanting to drive the most value out of strategic technology investments, the best course of action is often to seek outside perspectives and support. Many businesses may not know where their technical challenges lie and what bespoke platforms they need to produce results. As such, companies looking to implement personalized technologies should look to work with digital partners that can help them understand what platforms they require and how these can evolve, ensuring they do not become like the legacy technologies that preceded them.
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Through this approach, firms can finally rid themselves of the burden of legacy technology. Implementing new technologies that cater to them and their customers’ needs, produce ROI and can adapt in line with the business, so that while they inevitably gather some technical debt, it’s not sufficient to withhold them from making real progress.
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