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Weekly Thoughts: Technical Debt

Here is something that caught our eye this week:

Technical Debt

Deliberate, Inadvertent, Reckless and Prudent

We recently had an interesting conversation about Technical Debt with a rep from one of our industry ERP vendors.  In software development, coders will often take short cuts in the way they build their codebase in order to ship the product sooner.  While this might be the right business strategy in the early days when a company is trying to establish itself, gain customers, and generate initial revenue and earnings, the short cuts taken often limit the ability of the software to gain additional users beyond certain thresholds, or may create problems with the user experience if additional features are added to a foundation that wasn’t designed to accommodate them.

While we are not a software company, this is a worthwhile concept to keep in mind for business in general.  All companies accumulate some form of “technical debt” over time as they scale and evolve.  If you are starting a business, you don’t want to build the infrastructure of a $100mm revenue company or you would never get off the ground.  However, at some point, the short cuts taken or the systems that were built to “get started” will need to be adjusted to facilitate the continued growth of the business.  Software people talk about technical debt as falling into four types, split across two categories.  The first is Reckless vs. Prudent.  The second is Deliberate vs. Inadvertent.  This can be generalized to all business as follows:

Business Debt Quadrants
Reckless Prudent
Deliberate We do not have time for… We know it is not perfect, but let’s move forward and fix it later
Inadvertent What is an Org Chart? Now we know what we should have done

When we talk about Chasing Better, we mean working to grow the business, enhance the brand, and engage more effectively with employees.  But, we also mean taking the time to identify where the ‘technical debt’ may lie in our business systems and working to pay it down, not because there is a crisis today, but because the best companies are always tweaking and improving their core operational infrastructure as a matter of habit.

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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