The Most Important Enterprise Technology Objectives for 2020

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CIOs & CTOs Goals, Budgets, & Objectives — Here’s Your Priority List

We’ve heard it said that the holiday season is not as productive as other times of the year. Well, if you are an IT leader — CTO, CIO, Director, Senior IT Manager … that kind of thing — it’s just not true. This is the time of the year where you do some of your most important work. It’s when you evaluate the current year and set your budgets, goals, and priorities for the new year. That list will include all of the normal stuff from staffing to developing new products, services, and features.

But there are important projects and tasks that EVERY CIO, CTO, and IT Leader should have on their to-do list in 2020.

This Is Your Technology Priority List for 2020

1.  Reduce Your Technical Debt in 2020

Forbes magazine called Technical Debt “The Silent Company Killer.”

Technical Debt arises when something is done in the most expeditious way ,but not the best way, in order to solve an immediate problem or add something quickly. It’s simply human nature that people rarely — if ever — go back and fix or change those “expeditions” patches and additions. Inefficient technology – whether it is code, software, hardware, or infrastructure — builds up over time and create a persistent drain on resources. Simply said, doing something fast is sometimes necessary and we all do it. But if we do not make a point of going back and “doing it right” we are borrowing time and IT resources from our future to save a little time and effort now … and that’s where the term comes from.

Consider that the IT teams in established companies spend more time maintaining, fixing, and compensating for Technical Debt than doing just about anything else. According to a report by Stripe and Harris Polling, 52% of IT professionals say that the maintenance of legacy systems and technical debt are the biggest hindrances to productivity. And that translates into real hours. That same report broke down the average work-week of a US-based developer and found the following:

  • The average developer worked just over 41 hours per week.
  • 17.3 hours was spent is system maintenance.
  • 13.5 hours was spent servicing technical debt.
  • 3.8 hours is spent fixing bad code.
  • Only 6.5 hours was spent on everything else — meaning updates, new products, and new features.

That Forbes article assigned a real number to this, estimating “the average per-line (of code) cost of technical debt to be $3.61, and for Java code, a staggering $5.42.” For established companies with many systems that can add up to hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars per year. And not just in big enterprise organizations. Technical Debt impacts companies of all sizes.

But just like with personal monetary debt, Technical Debt can be reduced over time with less pain. The best way to get your IT budget in line is to start paying down the debt. You can outsource certain projects to keep your team working on the projects that are most important to your business growth. And for the smaller debt tasks, schedule team sprints once or twice per month to clean up and pay down your Technical Debt.

Addressing and reducing Technical Debt should be an ongoing action item for every IT department. But there are other things that should be done periodically.

2.  Consolidate & Retire Servers & Systems This Year

In the normal course of doing our work, technical professionals and system engineers set up demo and test servers. We create lab and production environments. We add temporary database tables. We all do a hundred things like this, and every one of them consumes space and resources. The problem is that we do not always turn them off when the task or project is done and the production version goes live. And in today’s hybrid hosting environment, that means that some instances are local, some are on dedicated servers in data centers, and some are in the cloud. Each one of those has a different cost profile, and those small incremental costs are eating away at your IT budget and slowing down mission-critical apps — sometimes in significant and meaningful ways.

We recommend that a complete inventory of all systems be done quarterly across all internal and external infrastructures. Manual queries and even some automated tools can find all of the servers and VMs in your environments, tell you what is running on them, and report on the resources allocated and consumed by each. Then it is a matter of identifying which ones matter, which ones don’t, which ones should be backed up and archived, and which systems can be migrated and merged to optimize the resources available.

This one step alone can save companies thousands of dollars each month in direct hyperscale cloud costs and identify unused and underutilized internal system resources that can save you on this year’s capital expenditures (CapEx). It’s real savings that really matter.

Your CEO and CFO will thank you.

3.  Adopt a “Weakest Link” Security Improvement Strategy for 2020

Security is always job #1 for us. Protecting the systems and data from existential failure and from being compromised is something we have focused on. And that means reviewing all your systems on a regular basis. But this is more than just updating your operating systems (OS) and software to the latest versions and installing the latest firmware on your networks.

Think of security differently. Think of it as a point of continual improvement.

Once you have the basic best practices of regular updates, server hardening, and disaster recovery mastered, adopt a “weakest link” strategy. Every quarter, set aside a day or two for your team to identify the weakest part of your network, code, systems, and processes from a security point of view. Even if everything is set to comply with industry best practices, you will ALWAYS be able to find what the most vulnerable system, practice, or code is. At the end of Q1 2020, identify your weakest link and resolve yourself to do something — anything – to reinforce that one thing in Q2 2020. And at the end of Q2, evaluate if an improvement was made and then identify the next weakest link in your security to improve in Q3 (and so on).

It doesn’t matter if the weakest thing is some code, a server, a network access point, a website portal, a process, or a response protocol. You identify the one weakest thing and work to make that one thing stronger or better. Not only will your security improve each and every quarter, but you will establish a culture of IT and data security in your operations and that culture of security will do more to secure your systems than any project or task.

Plan for this new “Weakest Link” security improvement process now and get it into your plans for the new year. It will pay real dividends over the long term.

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions or need help setting or implementing your technology objectives this year, just let us know. We are always happy to help.

Links & Resources

Forbes called “Technical Debt “The Silent Company Killer:"
https://www.forbes.com/sites/falonfatemi/2016/05/30/technical-debt-the-silent-company-killer/#162413204562  

Hinderances to developer productivity in organizations worldwide as of 2018 from Statista:
https://www.statista.com/statistics/912582/worldwide-developer-productivity-impediment/  

Developers weekly working hours breakdown worldwide as of 2018 from Statista:
https://www.statista.com/statistics/912562/worldwide-developer-work-week/  

The Developer Coefficient by Stripe and Harris Polling:
https://stripe.com/files/reports/the-developer-coefficient.pdf

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