Innovating While Maintaining Stability: A Lesson From Technical Debt


A while ago we published a post on IDC predictions that the bi-modal IT approach is a recipe for disaster. There are different opinions on what works in software development: those who support the siloed approach of bi-modal IT, those who urge against this division between predicability and innovation, and others who say fast development is the only way. This debate is only just beginning so it's worth while expanding on the arguments surrounding it.

This post boils it down to the simple question: how do you stay on budget while still innovating? This is especially difficult since we see that digital transformation will continue picking up pace despite the fact that IT budgets will see little increase in the coming year. According to the author the answer is in using the bi-modal approach.

Using the bi-modal approach doesn't inherently pit one IT team against the other, but instead does a good job of separating and prioritizing how your software should be maintained, upgraded, or replaced. It can be looked at as dividing your focus along the 80/20 rule.

How does the 80/20 rule apply to your software?

According to this post 80% of your IT infrastructure will last longer than you are usually led to believe - therefore, you should look for the 20% that can improve the most in performance and innovation. Ultimately, updating those "workhorse" components of your infrastructure may incur undue costs while exposing you to unneeded risk by implementing new components that may have bugs and glitches in them that need time to be resolved.

If you have an offering that is working just fine, why not extend its lifespan rather than immediately resorting to replacing it. This actually makes more sense as a strategy for continual innovation than the stop and start of constantly upgrading your infrastructure. It's the similar mindset to when arguing against a rewrite to manage your technical debt. There are really only a few occasions that call for a full write, rather than continuously modernizing and refactoring the areas of your software that require improvement.

Ripping out and replacing any aspect of your IT assets requires more than a simple calculation of capital costs - the learning curve for any new piece of software is steep and will cost you more in training for your team. There is also something to be said for valuing stability; with news of continual software outages and glitches, keeping your offering stable and functional are beneficial. If you look at bi-modal IT as a way of enabling stability than it can be valuable.

To read the full post visit here.

Filed in: Technical Debt
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