• Jake Brewer

The importance of working with a specialist to manage Technical Debt

Updated: May 18, 2019


In a prior discussion, “What is Technical Debt?”,  the description of technical debt was introduced along with the fact that it exists to some degree on every project. With a traditional project, this may be identified as a forethought in a Risk Analysis or Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA) in Project Planning for anything that is anticipated. For the absolute best results, having a technical debt specialist provides the best chances for not only a successful implementation but the continued effectiveness of the solution to operations going forward. Let’s explore how IT Efficiency Consulting’s approach is unique.

We use science and planning rather than blindly making changes.  The objective and unbiased nature of such a specialist identifies and analyzes the effect of technical debt. Then it may be Measured, Anticipated, Prioritized, Planned for, and Addressed.  IT Efficiency Consulting practices a holistic approach even when called into a reactionary situation. Even worse would be the effect of that debt down the road in the live environment where it starts to impact operations by decreasing efficiencies or be a roadblock to future coding enhancements. A specialist brings an outside eye to the details of the project, with an objective approach to give an honest and unbiased account of these risks and propose solutions, measurements of success, and explain how they will impact KPI (Key Performance Indicators).

IT Efficiency Consulting – a different approach

Back in 1971, FRAM oil filters started the phrase “Pay me now or pay me later: Pay me you will”. It originally meant pay a little for an oil change now or a lot for an engine rebuild later. That phrase took off from there because it holds true in countless different industry examples including technical debt. With this example in mind, bringing on IT Efficiency Consulting to manage technical debt results in a smoother transition to operational readiness by reducing the cost and impact of technical debt.

ITE Consulting works with businesses in a holistic approach to Measure, Anticipate, Prioritize, Plan and when beneficial reduce technical debt. We next develop strategies to better address technical debt in the future as it is identified. This puts technical debt in a different light because our clients are prepared and accounting for it. 

At IT Efficiency Consulting, our job is to help a company to no longer need us.  We train a company’s existing staff, making them more productive and more engaged.  Once the staff is knowledgeable and empowered, the measured results will show that our job is done.

What to expect?

Our first goal at IT Efficiency Consulting is to get a true feel of the current state of operations by working alongside the team to understand the details of the business and more specifically, the project. Our skilled engineers can speak as peers to your own team. We observe what is working well and identify what can be improved. As a third party in the project, objectivity is on our side. We often identify the risk that is either overlooked or sometimes hidden. We bring to light areas that may be difficult for non-engineers to grasp, and present the information in layman’s terms.  

Technical debt is commonly introduced for to two main reasons:

Oversight Being human, the team may miss details leading to unexpected impacts. Dependencies may be overlooked when prioritizing functionality. Requirements may be overlooked or poorly defined, requiring rework. QA plans may be incomplete or insufficient. Industry requirements change. Products used by the team may require updates. These are but a few examples.

Bias The pressure to move forward despite flaws can come in many forms from different directions. Sources of this pressure may come from available resources, deadlines, and even pet topics of Leadership. It takes someone from the outside to be objective and identify these risks of technical debt. Once identified, they can be prioritized and addressed proactively instead of hidden and forced to be dealt with reactively.

From there we build an assessment of that current process and suggest opportunities for improvement. With those opportunities, we provide options to those improvements, complete with an estimated Return of Investment (ROI). With a strong understanding of the cost and benefit of each option, the client can make an educated and sound decision with clear expectations of what will follow.

Once the objectives are defined and agreed, a payment structure is developed that provides an excellent ROI to our clients and equitable compensation to IT Efficiency Consulting.

A different approach

For those unfamiliar with our proven approach, it may at first feel slower than the excitement and initial progress of jumping right from a prototype to delivery. The benefit is realized from addressing and reducing technical debt when the implementation is smooth with few surprises to address. Surprises cost us either time, resources, or functionality, all of which are of detriment to the bottom line. 

One customer using our techniques was implementing a solution and later realized they wanted to move from SQL Server to Mongodb.  No small change, and in many places, this would have been months of testing just to verify that everything is still good.  For this customer, with the tests in place was able to make the change in a short amount of time and know within minutes of the change that there was no negative impact.  The whole team from developer to end customer trusted the process so much, that a quick smoke test was all they required before sending the solution to production!    

Once a client agrees to our approach, IT Efficiency Consulting will bring in a team to work alongside the project team. A typical concern of clients may be the impact on the productivity of the team or how they may feel about the adjustment.  We have the ability to augment the team during the initial transition (built into the contract) to negate the initial degradation of delivery associated with any change.  At first, the new approach and augmented team may be uncomfortable and require adjustments.  To address this, we find the team members that are open and interested in the change (we have not yet had trouble finding volunteers). However, after the initial implementation of IT Efficiency Consulting’s approach, the positive changes produce positive results, not only in the results of the project’s objectives but also team morale as they recognize the improvements in efficiencies and quality.  The other team members will see the benefits and begin to transition, while there are always detractors most of the team will take to the change with enthusiasm.

Why work with IT Efficiency Consulting?

ITE Consulting differs from other consulting firms by way of our holistic model proposing a defined one-time cost that stands independent of work hours and focuses on goals and objectives. We feel that hourly compensation rewards working with a business as long as possible. Because our cost structure is based on measurable objectives, our goal is to work with a team effectively as well as efficiently.  Our definition of “finished” is clear, and we will move toward that goal as safely & efficiently as possible.  IT Efficiency Consulting understands the impact high technical debt can have on a business, from productivity to reputation and morale – with the result being lower profits.

In conclusion, working with an expert ensures that debt potential is clearly identified, with monitoring, prioritization and planning in place. Making a short-term investment for long term productivity is a worthwhile solution for the success of each project and business operations overall. As noted, if this debt is left unobserved it can have detrimental effects on your business. IT Efficiency Consulting brings piece of mind and yields real results to successful implementations.

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