Technical Debt: Your Hidden DevOps Nightmare - Part 1
January 16, 2019

Brandon Carroll
TEKsystems Global Services

Technical debt is a phrase that you may have heard once or twice before. For those who haven't, it's typically defined as what results when legacy platforms or highly integrated and dependent systems and processes inhibit large enterprise organizations from meeting the needs of internal business stakeholders. In many cases, the core objectives that drive real, monetizable business value (e.g., customer acquisition, customer retention and new revenue opportunities) are not aligned to the esoteric IT goals of "automation" and "Agile development." This creates a fundamental disconnect between business and IT.

CICD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery) and DevOps are mere buzzwords that enterprises are seemingly adopting to address this issue — with mixed results at best. There's a fundamental focus in enterprise IT today on technology-driven solutions to clear technical debt and "automate things." However, enterprise IT often forgets their due diligence in working directly with the business to define the integrated solutions that'll modernize the application portfolio, drive agility and scalability, and increase release velocity — i.e., setting the table to drive out necessary features and functionality to a consumer base faster in a secure, defect-free manner.

To better align business and IT objectives, enterprise organizations should focus on the core "problems" that individual business units face today in driving out real consumer value. Until the roadblocks and inhibitors — and, ultimately, the resultant technical debt — are removed from the equation, large enterprise organizations will continue struggling to succeed in real transformation initiatives.

To better define a potential solution, organizations should first define the "problems" across the affected business units.

The Business Problem

Businesses need to stay competitive by constantly driving new revenue opportunities and improving the customer experience. Delivering new features, functionality and an enhanced user experience is critical for any consumer-facing application. These goals are highly dependent on speed to market, requiring more frequent software releases. This becomes an issue when cumbersome legacy systems and monolithic processes can't deliver necessary technical solutions as quickly as the business demands, negatively affecting the company's ability to compete or introduce new products and solutions into the marketplace.

The Development Problem

Large, monolithic applications are no longer feasible to support the ever-changing market demands of mobility and new feature or functionality delivery. Product and development teams must respond to business requests faster with high-quality deployments. Yet IT organizations are dealing with the underlying dependencies and voluminous integration points with legacy data sets and platforms.

The result? A nightmare scenario where IT becomes the bottleneck to business and development goals. Traditional ways of working on the IT side don't align with the speed-to-market objectives development teams need to meet. While software releases may be "small" as organizations become more agile, they are fraught with risk as QA and security are either forsaken or delay the release of new functionality to consumers that the business demands.

The IT Problem

Enterprise IT organizations are increasingly realizing that they must deliver secure infrastructure at a cadence that meets business and development needs. The inherent technical debt associated with highly dependent, integrated legacy platforms, siloed management structures and antiquated provisioning processes stands in the way of meeting core business objectives.

When underlying platforms and infrastructure have so many dependencies and integration points, configuration management becomes all but impossible in lower-level environments and, ultimately, production environments. This leads to delayed releases and deployments because, like security and QA, they have become production release blockers.

As most enterprise organizations have separate QA and security groups not aligned to the business, development and IT goals, "faster" is the enemy of quality and security, which delays or inhibits the overall business goals.

Read Technical Debt: Your Hidden DevOps Nightmare - Part 2, offering a plan to align business goals with IT solutions.

Brandon Carroll is Director, Transformation, DevOps and Cloud Services, for TEKsystems Global Services
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