Accelerating Enterprise Change: Technical Debt & The New Status Quo

COVID-19 has accelerated change and, with it, enterprise technical debt.
July 9, 2020
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There have been major paradigm shifts in how large enterprises manage technology and, for organizations that have not embraced them, the recent events of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated change. This sudden transformation is a positive disruption that will ultimately strengthen the companies that are able to tackle their technical debt.

The traditional CTO was once responsible for “keeping the lights on”. Technology was managed as a cost center, focusing on organizational efficiency and leading procurement of resources using adherence to budget as a metric. With the rise of cloud services and infrastructure, as well as Agile methodologies, old processes have become obsolete and have generated a kind of organizational “technical debt” that CTOs recognize but may have traditionally accepted as the status quo. 

The wrong incentives can create strategic misalignment as you go lower in the organization. Business leaders desperately need to move their product roadmaps forward and are 100% aligned to generating revenue. They need procurement to respond quickly to shifts in priorities. This is where the process breaks down: procurement is still aligned to maintaining the lowest possible cost, treating resources necessary for strategic digital transformation the same way it buys desk chairs. 


Tackling Technical Debt

This status quo has been overwhelmingly disrupted by current events. While some enterprise technology organizations have made the leap gracefully, others struggle to pivot to rapid changes in business strategy. For example, the simple shift from retail stores and delivery services to curbside pickups can ripple through a digital strategy and product roadmaps, creating a tidal wave of change that overwhelms organizations that are not agile enough to respond.

Here are three kinds of organizational “technical debt” that traditional CTOs can no longer dismiss as lower priorities:

  1. Technology is not a cost center. The CTO needs to be at the forefront of digital transformation, not mired in operations. Annual budgets are irrelevant to product roadmaps and strategic market opportunities. While there are operational responsibilities, many of these can now be managed as services.
  2. Technology organizations do not need to share physical spaces. This has been the case for some time, and many smaller organizations embraced distributed teams years ago. Still, the inertia and mindset of the corporate office have not been significantly challenged until now.
  3. Procurement is too slow, outdated, and strategically misaligned. CTOs must champion this change, and business leaders no longer should be hostage to it. The RFP process for determining a service provider can take months while creating a minimum viable digital product can take weeks. This is why we often see business leaders go “rogue,” securing digital partnerships outside of the procurement process. While this may lead to short term wins, it is disruptive to processes that should allow organizations to scale.

The best way to tackle technical debt is to recognize it as what it is, break it down into tasks and start executing. While many organizations have business continuity plans, they often do not consider events that have a long-term impact. The “emergency” of COVID-19 will be with us for many months, if not years. The short-term response is now the long-term plan.

The optimistic view is that many organizations have overcome these challenges in record time, and the catalytic effect of current events will lead to top-down strategic realignment across the enterprise. 


How are we contributing?

  1. We are partnering with our clients to rapidly scale up teams to implement pivoting business strategies as the only way for large enterprises to remain competitive. 
  2. Our growth strategy at BairesDev has always been 100% focused on the best talent, which knows no frontiers. We did not plan on this being the most substantial component of business continuity for our clients. What was once a risk is now the opportunity.
  3. With our business partners in large enterprises, we demonstrate reliable results that will ultimately influence organizational change.

We see large enterprises at a serious reflection point. Decades-old procurement processes are being abandoned. Tough choices are being made, but stronger partnerships are being built around empathy and demonstrated results of success. 

I look forward to helping my industry peers in any way I can to take on these challenges.

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