For any software development or IT company, technical debt is always accruing, and that debt is forever mounting interest. Technical debt means something a little different for IT service providers than it does for software developers, but it’s largely the same thing. If you want to know if you’ve created technical debt, ask this one simple question: If we could go back and do this thing over, knowing what we know now, with the right tools and proper time to execute, how would we do it this time?
And don’t be fooled by the detail of the litmus test question into thinking it’s hard to know or tell if we’ve actually created technical debt. Most technical debt is created with the full awareness by someone that it’s being created. We create it as easily as when we swipe our card at the coffee shop to get a cup of our favorite form of caffeine. You know what I mean…
When we installed that wireless access point in a hurry just to get the client online and working, knowing full well that it can’t stay zip-tied to the electrical conduit near the ceiling with its cables hanging down like a Portuguese man o’ war waiting to entangle someone. Or that time we had the noob do the server AV install and they decided to push the app to the client workstations before having configured the settings for the client. Now they’re back at the office on to the next thing and the client has a working solution, but it’s not our standard configuration of the solution. Or how about all that leftover little stuff we never did on the last network migration because we were so busy losing our ass on the entire project that we had to cut our losses and get out of there before the client just said, “F#@k it, assign them desks and put them on the payroll.” I think you get the idea.
We know that if we can catch it immediately after it happens or the minute we realize we’ve created this technical debt, it can be remedied much faster and it won’t become part of the sprawl of just more things to fix. If you think about how much time it takes and how hard it is to fix these things once they’ve sat for days, weeks, and then months, it doesn’t make sense not to take this time to pay it all down. Well, one of the good things about this “lockdown” the country is in and the lull we’re feeling is that it’s a perfect time to stop hitting the snooze button on the Technical Debt Alarm Clock and get to paying it down.
Think about how much time you could save if you deal with these things now in the lull. I can almost guarantee there is some issue that comes up on a regular basis related to some one thing we didn’t do the right way or is in dire need of being re-done a better way. Look at some of your oldest tickets in the system and you’ll find they may have issues spawning off of them like baby cockroaches. They’re so old and stinky, no one wants to deal with them. Well, set a bounty on that issue and if you resolve it, you save the team “n” new ancillary issues.
Here’s a bit of incentive. Take this time to get these things in order and you may just find a bunch of cash!
Everyone’s tightening their budgets and getting ready for an economic storm (or they should be), but on the other side of this is normal business with plans for world domination, and to do that, the client needs to keep innovating and advancing. As you’re resolving these old issues and paying down the technical debt, you’re bound to come across ideas for better performance and new ways to give the client value tomorrow. And every single thing you do that helps them work better, more efficient, or saves them money tomorrow, will have a line on the post-apocalyptic budget.
OK, one last very important thing. Doing these things that are almost certainly covered under managed services, they keep your team learning and growing, busy, and engaged, and the clients see you continuing to give them value at no additional cost to them. That in and of itself ensures that the clients know you’re working to make their business lives better in some way, every day.
Paying down technical debt is unavoidable, and we very rarely are given many chances to do it. So take this time and pay it all down now. It really is just like money in the bank!