Majority of UK businesses are failing to address technical debt, says Claranet research

Work needs to be done to better manage technical debt levels and reduce the barriers to change and improvement.

New research by technology services provider Claranet has revealed that technical debt is a significant issue for 84 per cent of organisations – limiting their ability to respond quickly to customer demand with new software feature releases. This figure shows that despite tech debt being a very common issue, business leaders have not yet taken the necessary steps to manage this. The result is a significant drag on business agility and competitiveness.

The research was carried out by Vanson Bourne and surveyed 100 IT decision-makers from UK-based businesses with more than 1,000 employees. Despite widespread recognition of tech debt challenges, more than eight in ten respondents (84 per cent) do not have an active reduction programme in place, and close to a fifth (19 per cent) want to reduce their legacy technology but do not have a clear plan of action on how to do this.

For Michel Robert, Managing Director at Claranet UK, this highlights how more needs to be done to effectively address the issue.

He said:

Limiting technical debt is all about maintaining the quality of your code. Poor quality can lead to systems that are difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to change and potentially less secure. That’s not a position any business wants to find itself in, especially when fast, iterative improvements are often needed to serve customers most effectively.

With many companies now working to a complex Hybrid Cloud strategy and starting to benefit from an Infrastructure as Code approach, the issue of technical debt goes beyond the development team."

Our research has shown that many businesses are severely restrained by technical debt, and a big reason for this appears to be that many non-technical staff are unaware of the time and effort that needs to go into refactoring applications and resources at a later date. There’s a clear need to raise awareness in this area and to also encourage closer collaboration between technical teams working in Development, Operations, and Security, and to state the business case for non-technical colleagues.”

This lack of awareness is confirmed by the finding that almost half of respondents (48 per cent) said their non-technical colleagues do not understand the financial impact that technical debt can have on the organisation, with 45 per cent reporting they only have a rudimentary understanding of the concept.

Robert added:

There’s clearly a significant disconnect between the technical teams and the wider business when it comes to understanding the importance of maintaining the quality of code and how to manage it. Part of the solution to this problem is to create a quality-focused culture.”

He concluded:

Adopting a philosophy like DevSecOps, and taking an “as-code” approach to security and infrastructure, can help unite teams around a common purpose of maintaining quality systems. Do it right and businesses will be in a better position to quickly adapt to market conditions, stay secure, and build a stronger competitive advantage.”