With a process to measure technical debt in place, organizations can better allocate the resources required to tackle it. 

Technical debt, a.k.a. code debt, refers to the additional work required to get a technology to work as intended within an organization. It is caused by poorly written code and/or poorly implemented solutions. It is often exacerbated by quick-fix processes in software development that do not take into account long term requirements. 

Enterprises generally rack up technical debt as they grow and expand. They choose to prioritize the speed of delivery and rely on patch fixes in code rather than taking the route of creating optimal solutions. 

The more tech debt you have, the higher the “interest” amount you need to pay to fix those issues – or “pay down the debt”.

With business-critical systems, in particular, taking them offline and re-building/implementing them is often not possible. Instead, reworking existing implementations is required. 

Apart from increased costs, technical debt inevitably leads to delivery delays and hampers brand reputation while leaving software developers frustrated and overburdened. 

A Common (and Costly) Problem

For many organizations dealing with technical debt, a significant portion of their tech budget goes toward resolving tech debt-related challenges.

According to McKinsey’s survey, almost 30% of CIOs agree that “tech debt amounts to 20 to 40 percent of the value of their entire technology estate”. 

Although some technical debt is inevitable, business leaders must find the balance between IT strategy, implementation plans, and company goals. 

One of the challenges of managing technical debt is that organizations are often unaware of the source or how to measure technical debt that they have incurred.

The first step to avoiding technical debt is to understand the warning signs:

Warning Signs for Technical Debt

Code quality

How often does code fail, or need to be re-worked?

Poor coding standards and complex code are the primary causes of technical debt. Software engineers must adopt industry best practices to ensure code quality, including proper documentation of code, as well as the standard of code itself.

The need to re-work poor code is a common example of technical debt.

Code ownership

Who is – and how many people are – involved in development of a particular project?

Multiple engineers or teams working on the same code or project can complicate the process, leading to technical debt. However, giving complete ownership of a project to one employee can lead to continuity issues if the employee moves on or is unavailable.

Ultimately, it’s best practice to document who’s worked on which code, and what they produced. If code ownership or its history of revisions is hard to establish, that’s an early warning sign that an organization is incurring technical debt.

New vs. old bugs (debt index)

How many bugs are being fixed vs. the amount of new bugs identified?

Bugs and bug fixes are an integral part of the coding process. However, if software developers keep track of when and how many bugs they’ve fixed, they have a clear metric indicating the levels of technical debt in the organization.

If there is a spike in new bugs, and/or new bugs exceed the number of closed bugs within a short time period, there is likely to be a technical debt issue. This suggests that the development team should rethink their coding and implementation strategies.

Redundant Technologies and Processes

How many technologies are redundant, and can therefore be consolidated?

In many cases, maintaining current technologies requires active input from internal teams. If an organization can consolidate their use of technologies, they have less to maintain, and are better able to address issues elsewhere in the enterprise.

In particular, third-party technologies are often made redundant by updates to the platform they support. Keeping key enterprise technologies up-to-date means you can benefit from the additional out-of-the-box capabilities they add over time.

How to Measure Technical Debt

Ideally, an understanding of the warning signs of technical debt helps organizations identify and prevent technical debt build up early.

However, many organizations may have existing technical debt they want to manage in order to formulate a strategy to address it. For that, an organization’s “Technical debt ratio” (TDR) is a useful metric allowing organizations to measure technical debt.

Technical debt ratio (TDR)

TDR quantifies the total future cost of technical debt you’ve accumulated now. The calculation is straightforward – TDR weighs the costs you’ll bear to fix technical issues against the total project development cost. The cost may be determined in terms of money, time, labor, etc. The standard TDR cap is 5% – any higher than this, and your organization will be in trouble.

Some organizations offer calculators to help evaluate your organization’s efficiency in managing technical debt. For instance, McKinsey shared a Tech Debt Score calculator alongside a study on technical debt. The analyst firm invites organizations to “Find out your Tech Debt Score and see how it compares to others.

Technical Debt in ServiceNow

As a business-critical solution to many enterprises, tackling and preventing technical debt build up in ServiceNow has a positive impact on the organization as a whole.

Below, we list three ways to tackle and prevent technical debt build up in ServiceNow:

1. Keep ServiceNow Up-to-Date

Many organizations introduce third-party solutions and/or integrations to extend ServiceNow capabilities, or meet other enterprise requirements.

As ServiceNow upgrade their offering over time, some of these third-party solutions and/or integrations become out-of-the-box capabilities for the ServiceNow platform.

Keeping ServiceNow up-to-date helps organizations take advantage of its new capabilities, and potentially consolidate their use of technologies. With less to maintain, organizations naturally incur and hold less technical debt.

2. Introduce an Archiving Strategy

Due to the large volumes of data it generates, ServiceNow can (and does) contribute to an organization’s level of technical debt in the form of data debt.

With a good archiving strategy, organizations can reduce the amount of out-dated or unnecessary data in their ServiceNow production instance. This reduces the strain large data volumes has on ServiceNow’s performance.

A strong archiving strategy also helps with our first solution to tackling technical debt – upgrading the platform.

With a means of replicating ServiceNow data to an external database, organizations can create a restore point and prevent any data loss incurred due to the platform update. This gives organizations greater confidence in introducing the update.

3. Take ServiceNow Data Out of its Silo via Integrations

To prevent and tackle technical debt in ServiceNow, organizations should implement a strategy for real-time and batch data replication to a data warehouse.

As well as enabling the archiving referenced above, an automated solution for integrating ServiceNow data can drastically cut down on error-prone and time consuming manual data entry.

A reliable automated integration solution can ensure development and IT resources aren’t wasted trying to get data to where it should be, and to the people that need it.

Need Help with ServiceNow Technical Debt?

For all of the above methods of addressing technical debt in ServiceNow, Perspectium is here to help.

Perspectium is an integration-as-a-service and ServiceNow-native application for extracting, replicating and synchronizing ServiceNow data across multiple instances, or between third-party solutions.

With Perspectium’s automated integration solution, organizations can migrate data to another ServiceNow instance, upgrade ServiceNow with confidence in data integrity, and move your attachments to a database.

To integrate ServiceNow with third-party applications such as Analysis, Reporting, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Business Intelligence solutions, check out DataSync.

If you’d like to learn more about backup and restore, check out DataSync Snapshot.

To synchronize multiple ServiceNow instances, or sync ServiceNow with a third-party solution, check out ServiceBond.

Or if you’re ready to chat, let’s get in touch.

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