Most companies spend the vast majority of their IT budgets on sustaining operations—ongoing maintenance and administrative tasks like maintaining systems, availability, applying upgrades, fixes, patches, etc. Just “keeping the lights on” can range from 60-80% of their budgets versus net new opportunities. Despite this, most companies (89%) expect their IT budgets to grow or stay flat. Meanwhile, the time bomb ticks down on their mounting technical debt.
The accumulation of technical debt is one of the primary reasons that Digital Transformations have not been successful. More than that, it is a primary reason companies are not prepared to face existential threats to their business, dragging down the flexibility they need to react to unanticipated business needs, changing market demands, and changing customer desires. Technical debt puts them behind the ever-accelerating pace of technology and weakens their ability to attract talent, nurture employees, and create an adaptive culture that can reorganize to take on new business realities.
The rapid pace of technological change is number one challenge companies face when trying to build an adaptive organization. Employees rate technology as the #1 criteria in job satisfaction polling. It is the key factor in attracting and retaining employees. In spite of that, the biggest time-waster at work for employees is the use of antiquated technology. On average, two hours a day are used to search for data.
The acceleration of technology is not only growing exponentially but building upon itself and combining with paradigm shifts. Data will reach double exponential rates by 2025. In the 21st century, we will not experience 100 years of progress, but more like 20,000 years (Ray Kurzweil, The Law of Accelerating Returns). In the case of PLM, ask yourself: how long has it been since your last upgrade? More than a year ago? Are you more than one major release behind? Hopefully not.
New challenges and rapid technology advances abound, yet many organizations continue to make decisions on IT investments like they did a decade ago, compounding their already mounting technical debt. Attempts to side step this with large purchases of “new” systems can be problematic. Even if they’re well-funded, without flexibility and upgradability, this is simply creating “instant legacy.” The same applies to SaaS—once you make a decision for an application/service that is not based on the ability to change, all you have done is insulate your organization from technology changes. You have not solved the problem of external changes disrupting the business “fit.”
If your technology is not up-to-date, you fall behind and are unable to meet unanticipated business needs. If your systems are not up-to-date, you are not taking advantage of the technology that provides you with the agility necessary to be as competitive as possible. It is not just that technology gets old—the solution-set of the apps you bought also loses relevance. It is impossible to estimate your future capacity or features with static hardware and software. Anyone can optimize for today—you need to plan to deliver for tomorrow. Tomorrow is unknown, so by definition, you need technology based on architectures designed to be flexible and upgradeable.
So, how do you get out of the technical debt you are in?
Do not fear changing requirements—your businesses will change them as you learn. Stop buying disposable systems—trying to stitch together legacy architectures, or performing massive consolidations is just another form of wasted IT budget. Buy technology that will allow change over time, because everything will change. You must base your architecture on resiliency. You need platform technology that allows you to dynamically add capabilities and applications, and take advantage of increasingly smart and connected technologies.
We need to reframe how we evaluate technology. Embrace “Platform Thinking.” When you evaluate technology, what you need is something that is future-proof. Breadth and depth are important, but not nearly as much as a resilient platform architecture that allows you stay current and take advantage of technology. Breadth and Depth do not help when the business problem changes. You need to demand resiliency, the ability to quickly add capability that is upgradable. It will allow you to meet tomorrow’s challenges, keep pace with technology, and is thousands of times more important than specific features, many of which you do not yet know you need.
According to CIMdata, here are three related strategic aspects of a Resilient Platform:
- Connection – The platform’s ability to share and transact value
- Gravity – The platform’s ability to attract participants, both producers (i.e. application builders) and consumers (i.e. users)
- Flow – The platform’s ability to foster the exchange and co-creation of value
Two more strategic aspects that are critical to a platform are:
- Openness – The platform’s ability to provide unencumbered access to managed data and related services
- End-to-End Lifecycle Support – A platform’s ability to support the full product lifecycle from concept through end-of-life and throughout the entire extended enterprise, including all of its engineering and non-engineering disciplines that create and/or use product data
To plan for change and be prepared for tomorrow, a platform must possess sustainability, which is its ability to support a company’s data and process management requirements over a long period at a reasonable cost as the business evolves. It must also possess the ability to easily update to newer versions of a solution. This is done with Through-Life configuration management and traceability—also known as the Digital Thread—which will enable you to provide the right data to the right people at the right time.
The more you reduce your technical debt, the higher the ratio of budget you have for innovation. Innovation in technology is the result of culture, collaboration, and capabilities. If you empower your people with the right technology, you enhance collaboration, make it easy to deploy, upgrade, scale, and quickly and incrementally add capabilities, which drives agility, innovation, a positive culture, and growth. Reduce your technical debt and future-proof your tomorrow.