Finance Technology

Technical Debt Reversal: Technology Trends 2014

technical debt reversal

This take on the Trend: Technical Debt Reversal was written by Mmamathe Makhekhe, CIO of Johannesburg Water.

When it comes to technical debt reversal, understanding, containing, and mitigating technical debt can be a platform for a renewed level of trust and transparency with the business. This is especially an interesting field in the public sector where we are already using aspects of it in our operations.

Two of the key issues any public sector department face are that of business processes and how best to enhance them. When Johannesburg Water looked at its existing systems, the department closely examined how they were deployed, how they relayed to the architecture of the department, and whether they have been deployed to serve the needs of the department.

Similar to many organisations, a public sector department evolves over time and business requirements change. For us, many of our challenges revolve around the shortages of water faced by citizens. From a policy perspective, there has therefore been a need to transform to meet service delivery imperatives. The question then turns to how can technology be used in order to be pro-active and manage capital costs.

This is where technical debt comes into play.

Would you be interested to know your IT organisations propensity for Technical Debt accumulation? If so, fill your details in below and we will let you know when our online self-assessment tool for Technical Debt is released next month!

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According to the definition of this trend, technical debt is a way to understand the cost of code quality and the impacts of architectural issues. For IT to help drive business innovation, managing technical debt is a necessity. Legacy systems can constrain growth because they may not scale; because they may not be extensible into new scenarios like mobile or analytics; or because underlying performance and reliability issues may put the business at risk. But it is not just legacy systems: New systems can incur technical debt even before they launch. Organisations should purposely reverse their debt to better support innovation and growth, and revamp their IT delivery models to minimise new debt creation.

So in the wake of this, technical debt is a concept that we as a department have picked up on and started implementing. With our users or customers becoming more sophisticated, this approach has a lot of potential to pay dividends. People are more mobile and agile than ever before and are demanding more from their service providers because of it.

Unfortunately we are not unique from a public service perspective to be trapped with reduced budgets. This means that the prioritisation of key issues in terms of technical debt reversal becomes essential. I am fortunate to be in a position to deal with this heads-on.

Already, we have ensured that the required corporate governance is in place as well as many of the processes to integrate technical debt more into the department. However, there are still numerous of our systems trapped in a multi-vendor approach so this needs to be streamlined as a first priority. The question is how best do we plug them into the organisation and eliminate duplication? Through technical debt, this becomes a real possibility as the stakeholders within our structures see the value in the public sector. And as we are starting to see the benefits of this, many in the private sector will also experience significant improvement in their own processes.

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