Technical debt is acting as a ‘silent saboteur’ for businesses globally, according to nearly half of business leaders surveyed by technology services company DXC Technology.
According to Gartner, technical debt - or tech debt - is accrued work that is ‘owed’ to an IT system. Teams ‘borrow’ against quality by making sacrifices, taking short cuts, or using workarounds to meet delivery deadlines. These sacrifices eventually cause the software to deviate from its prescribed nonfunctional requirements, and in the long-term, they can impact performance, scalability, resilience or similar characteristics of the system.
While different from obsolescence or depreciation, DXC Technology says tech debt can be measured in billions for most large enterprises and have far-reaching implications.
The global survey of 750 C-suite information and technology executives commissioned by DXC Leading Edge makes the case for reframing tech debt from a problem that needs to be solved to something that needs to be tackled as part of any organisation’s modernisation efforts.
Accountability crisis when it comes to technical debt
According to the report, there is an accountability crisis when it comes to tech debt, which is described by McKinsey as “the silent killer of technology modernisation efforts”. Of the executives interviewed by DXC Technology, almost all (99%) recognised that tech debt was a risk to their organisations, despite the fact that three in four still believe that IT leadership should shoulder sole responsibility for fixing it.
“We’re at a point in time where technology innovation is rapidly accelerating,” commented Michael Corcoran, Global Lead, Analytics & Engineering at DXC Technology. “The way we build, grow, and enable our teams and customers is changing and with that, our approach to managing the process of modernisation must as well.
“Sometimes the spread of tech debt across the organisation makes it hard for leaders to step outside of their team view, and this where a neutral third party can provide a holistic view that lets leaders consider a new perspective. If business leaders don’t commit to addressing tech debt now, it will lead to loss of resources, productivity, talent, and have huge security implications.”
Lack of awareness amongst business leaders also has a significant impact on their ability to manage technical debt. Executives were clear that there are barriers to progress which hinder modernisation efforts in their organisations; 47% of respondents scored knowledge barriers as very or extremely significant, and 38% did so for cultural barriers.
“Technical debt is an enduring topic across the intersection of business and technology, it’s long known about yet often poorly understood. As it continues to accumulate, organisations around the world cite it as a top challenge, inhibiting their ability to transform and serve their customers into the future,” said Dave Reid, Research Director of DXC Leading Edge. “Today we’re releasing our landmark study to help our customers and partners tackle this issue head on and begin to reap the long-promised but hard-to-realise benefits of modernisation and transformation.”
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