Business leaders, I would like to discuss a topic that many of us avoid, Technology Debt. All of us have it. It stifles our ability to adapt our business, remain competitive and invest in growth. Unfortunately, most business leader have accepted Technology Debt the same way that we have accepted the National Debt. “It’s just something that we are going to have to live with.”
Technology has always changed. From a business perspective, as soon as a new technology has been implemented, discussions begin on what the next step should be. To make matters worse, the pace of technology change is happening at an accelerating pace. The risks of getting stuck with technology that quickly becomes outdated are increasing. But don’t fear, there is good news in technology land. Technology is finally evolving towards methods to:
- make it easier to lower your technology debt
- AND stay current with the pace of change of technology
- AND allow you to better control your destiny.
PaaS (Platform as a Service) and the API economy are the first key steps towards a better technology debt future.
Keeping up with the technology curve is not a new phenomenon. Since the introduction of the first IBM mainframe, IT has been continually challenged to keep up without breaking the budget. From mainframes to enterprise software packages to SaaS applications, have all been positive evolutions in technologies ability to improve a business’s ability to benefit from IT investment. But little has been done to effectively reduce the on-going burden associated with keeping any of those investments current.
Over time, technology debt builds and future generations of business are burdened with it. As that collective debt has continued to climb, we have come to treat it like the national debt… it doesn’t seem to be a big deal now, we’ll let future generations deal with it. Technology debt will continue to hamper business productivity if actions are not taken to manage technology debt and ideally begin to reduce it over time. Of course, we all understand that it is not as simple as “stop investing in new tech and focus on reducing technology debt” (isn’t that what our politicians say about the national debt?). Technology has and will continue to drive productivity and differentiation in our businesses. To remain competitive, we must continue to innovate.
PaaS is the tipping point in technology evolution where business can move towards LESS Technology Debt AND still drive innovation. While PaaS is the term being used in the market to represent the collective offering, there are several underlying principles that enable PaaS to be the evolutionary step discussed.
- Device independent UIs. The mobile revolution has forced technologists to create more efficient ways to accomplish multiple user interfaces for same software and the birth of the API. APIs enable business to put as many faces on their business logic as appropriate without massive new development projects each time they want to do this.
- Multi-tenant platform. Easier innovation and lower total cost of ownership are the most obvious benefits of multi-tenant software. PaaS takes multi-tenant one step further by having GREATER control AND allowing you to create your own user experience.
- Open source, collaborative code development. Even with all of these benefits described, you still have a lot of code to be written. Thanks to the open source community and technologies like GitHub, developers can collaborate more effectively and share code more effectively than ever. Modular design best practices means faster development, less reliability on your developers and more manageable change. PaaS embraces your ability to do this on enterprise scale, so less technology debt.
- Software Supply Chain Leverage. As PaaS becomes mainstream, these services will become more specialized, homogenous and intuitively integrated. No longer will we be beholden to large ERP platforms for all features for our enterprise. But instead the best specific platform for the specific business purpose. Discrete, integrated software becomes easier to change out technology when it no longer serves the purpose. In essence, you control your technology debt fate, gain R&D control without the traditional costs to be paid for that control. PaaS/API gives you “build it myself” control at the lower TCO points established by SaaS.