Technical Debt: Financial Disaster

December 25, 2015

Adoption of cloud-based services provides the enterprise with I read “Treat Technical Debt Like a Bad Relationship.” Googlers called attention to technical debt. I wrote about that Google paper earlier in 2015. The idea is not a new one. The idea is that today’s technology requires on-going investment.

That investment is necessary if the product is to be kept working and in step with what competitors offer. What happens if one ignores the technical debt, the local bean counter points out that the amount of dough required to keep a product is greater than its revenue. End of story. Some products can chug along for years. I don’t think too much about my refrigerator unless it stops working. I don’t repair it if it is 11 years old. I get a new one. That’s what happens with search and content processing. A recent example is GoDaddy. The company bought Enterprise (yes, I know that your friendly mid tier consultant does not know about this system. But GoDaddy decided after 11 years to get a new one.

In the write up, the notion of a bad relationship speaks more about the author than about how the finances of a technology work out over time. Perhaps an expensive divorce would be more apt. Plenty of organizations license a search and content processing technology and then figure out that a new one is needed. Expensive? Yep.

The write up points out:

Adoption of cloud-based services provides the enterprise with the ability to minimize technical debt by striking a balance between continuously delivered cloud solutions and existing controls necessary to remain compliant with security requirements. Experienced technical personnel must assess those requirements against available cloud offerings. Increased cloud adoption will free technical security personnel from managing software, empowering them to spend more time on assessments and adoption of technology to stay ahead of evolving threats.

What happens if the cloud solution delivers the same cost burdens as any other enterprise application?

The answer is, “Get a new one.”

That’s what IBM itself does. The company coded up STAIRS III, converted it, and still sells the technology today. IBM bought iPhrase, bought Vivisimo, invested in home brew content processing initiatives like Web Fountain. Now IBM has wrapped scripts around a basket of technologies.

If one buys into the IBM solution, will the technical debt become a tiny part of the information technology budget? I don’t think so. The customer pays for its decisions. The vendor loses a client. A technology failure can impair or cause a business failure.

Technological debt is very different from having a bad friend. The divorce metaphor works well: Pain, lawyers, and brutal costs.

How does one deal with technical debt? Well, buy cloud services from IBM, after you, gentle reader, query Watson for guidance.

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2015


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