Conquering Technical Debt: 5 Ways CIOs Can Drive Digital Transformation

CIOs these days face a tough mandate: Lead the organization on its path to digital transformation. No longer are they simply asked to be trusted operators and provide a commoditized service to support business units by provisioning and managing technology.

Now, as experts in both technology and business, CIOs are being asked to work as trailblazers and change agents, collaborating with other business leaders to launch innovative projects that will do nothing less than reshape the organization, its operational agility and perhaps even its mission.

But what is the biggest technical obstacle CIOs face in accomplishing this objective? Technical debt. Technical debt, in the words of one CIO, is “the conglomeration of bad design, bad code and corner-cutting that accrued over the years so we could get something out the door.” It’s technology, new or old, that has been poorly implemented. It was often rushed into service to meet a deadline. And now it requires time and money to maintain and improve, if possible, beyond its original capabilities.

Large enterprises — even well-known ones — find themselves struggling to overcome the operational and financial burdens of technical debt. We know of a major bank, for example, that devotes 85 percent of its IT budget to maintaining old middleware and ad hoc projects from the past two decades, rather than investing in new initiatives that could deliver competitive
advantage.

A Plan for Overcoming Technical Debt
How does a CIO overcome technical debt to obtain the time and resources necessary for leading the organization’s digital transformation?

Based on our work with a wide-range of businesses and larger corporations around the world and across industries, we suggest five steps for overcoming technical debt.

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