What is Tech Debt and What Should You Do About It?

A couple of weeks ago, I did a webinar on Tech Debt with my CTO, Maki Kato, and MatrixMaxx AMS Product Manager, Tanya Kennedy-Luminati, and was also recently featured in an AssociationsNow article on the topic. What exactly is tech debt?

Wikipedia says Tech Debt “reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.”

I say tech debt happens when: 

  • You rush a solution
  • You don’t understand what you’re really trying to accomplish
  • You allow your tech to get too old
  • Your tech no longer meets the requirements of your organization today

Examples of tech debt include:

  • The membership database that never really met the needs of your meetings department, even at launch
  • The really old version of WordPress that’s hanging out somewhere, just waiting to be hacked
  • The software that you stopped paying support for, and now it’s four versions behind, and it will cost a fortune to upgrade and you may have to start fresh
  • The custom application that is running on an old version of Windows and SQL Server. The app still works but it’s now on an unsupported version of Windows.

Does this sound like your organization? If so, you might have tech debt!

During the webinar, Maki, Tanya and I talked about how the first step to addressing your tech debt is identifying and fully describing it. So before your next budget cycle:

  • Inventory your software and systems. 
  • Describe them. 
  • Find out the versions. 
  • Are they working? 
  • Do they meet your needs?

Even if you are not in a position to do something about the tech debt immediately, you will know what’s out there and you can start prioritizing the list and budgeting for solutions.

In future blog posts, we’ll talk about ways to remediate and avoid tech debt. Stay tuned!