Covid-19 vs. Technical Debt
Those that know me know that I always try to look to the positives and consequently, under these circumstances, I trust that our amazing medical professionals will do their jobs and that I’ll be fine if I follow their advice. I therefore need to think about how we as businesses can come out of this challenging situation stronger.
This situation is unprecedented and I don’t believe that there has ever been a situation where so many companies have either paused their operations or have the ability to be down for an extended period without (more) negative consequences. This, I believe, presents an opportunity.
In normal circumstances, implementing business or software change has been likened to changing a wheel while still driving the car, a risky process which if not planned correctly has the potential to cause a significant crash (literally and figuratively). Personally, I love the way that this Gif depicts it:
Now though, many businesses are in the situation where their operations are effectively paused and – thanks to the subsidies provided by the government – their employees are available. So, does this mean we have the ideal situation to sort out all the technical challenges that have been getting in the way of our implementations; to use this time to emerge stronger, to be in a situation whereby every business can start with a clear plan AND with the tools and processes in place to deliver that plan?
My thoughts go to the following areas:
- Old technology that is in the way of progression
- Infrastructure that has been superseded by new technologies
- Duplicate Software
- Security configurations
- Staff Skills
Anyone who has worked in a senior IT position knows that there is “that” software that’s in the way. It could be an interface, a set of middleware, an unsupported piece of software that no-one is brave enough to touch. It’s usually “that” component that causes the most significant headaches when thinking about migrations. Well, is now the opportunity to either get rid of it or to re-engineer it? Simply changing its interfacing methods might be an expeditious use of time, thereby making it more supportable and having it carry less risk. Is it possible to reassess any software or hardware that is unsupported and to replace it within a few short months? I can think of a variety of components from my past which I’d love to simply “get out of the way” in order to enable the larger transformation projects.
Some of the hardest components to replace are your interfaces. Middleware is typically developed as part of an original implementation and then engineered around, as subsequent ERP, MES and other systems come and go. These applications probably weren’t developed with today’s security standards in mind (data or cyber) and probably can’t take advantage of cloud technologies. Can you use this time to find a way to replace them? At HSO we’re great proponents of the Azure Integration Services, allowing you to manage your integration methods in one place and ensure data security with resilience. Can we help you re-engineer these processes?
What about the on-premise infrastructure services like Microsoft Exchange, Skype, etc? Is now a great opportunity to migrate away from them and into the cloud? The benefits of doing so are now even more stark for small businesses, as this simple migration will make remote working easier, provide you with more resilience and reduce your dependency on your key IT resources.
Every business that I’ve worked in or consulted for has got some duplicate software; typically I’ve found it in the reporting space but it exists everywhere. It may have arrived by design (an incomplete roll-out of a tool) or through acquisition of a company; in any circumstance it exists and it’s draining your financial resources (why pay twice for something) and your precious IT team’s time in knowing and supporting those components. Now systems and businesses have shut down, can you use this time to centre on one product in each space? Examples from my past include reporting, recipe management and production control/MES software, but there are many more possibilities. What can you do to rationalise these products and become a leaner and more agile business when we emerge from this challenge?
Cyber and Data security have been areas where most businesses have under invested. Great strides have been taken in the last few years, however many systems are still not aligned to the starter/leaver processes that can be aligned to your HR systems (e.g. through Active Directory) which exposes you to risk of fraud and instead, no doubt, you currently have manual procedures in place to manage. Can you do something NOW to remove these risks and implement robust processes? View our blog on cloud security.
IT teams have been stretched over the last few years; there has rightly been a drive to reduce cost in their teams but also for them to embrace new technologies. Is the simplest thing to do to allow you to accelerate into the future to invest in your teams? When have they had the opportunity to really explore the costs and benefits of cloud adoption? Have they been able to challenge themselves about the right way to solve a problem rather than simply the ways that have worked in the past? When I moved out of an on-premise centric business and into a cloud centric business, I was naive about the indirect opportunities that technologies present (particularly the Microsoft suite). Can your business take advantage of the same? I challenge you to look hard at a business that doesn’t require a VPN or file servers and to understand the growth and access opportunities that this presents, let alone the potential cost savings in outsourcing your infrastructure. No more capital applications for larger databases or servers, simply a pay-as-you-go model that just works.
I’m sure that there are many more areas where you can take advantage of this horrible opportunity. At HSO we see the potential opportunity that this presents and have a team who can help you identify the opportunities to clear the technical debt within your business and enable you and your team to accelerate out of this challenging time, by looking to the future with a solid and flexible foundation.
Best wishes to you and your families, stay safe and I look forward to speaking with you soon.