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Understanding technical debt: the hidden cost of ignoring problems

Aug 31, 2023 | Blogs, SCIEX OS software, Technology | 0 comments

Read time: 4 minutes

Introduction
In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, businesses heavily rely on software and IT systems to drive their operations. However, the pursuit of efficiency and speed often leads to the accumulation of what is known as technical debt. Technical debt refers to the implied cost incurred when businesses choose quick but limited solutions over better approaches that may take more time to implement. This blog post will delve into the concept of technical debt, its implications for businesses and how to avoid falling victim to its detrimental effects.

Defining technical debt
Technical debt can be understood as the consequence of postponing necessary improvements or fixes to software systems, processes or infrastructure. It arises when shortcuts or suboptimal solutions are employed to meet immediate needs, resulting in compromises that can cause problems to worsen over time. Just as financial debt incurs interest over time, technical debt accumulates and becomes more costly to rectify the longer it persists.

Source: asana.com

Consider SCIEX mass spectrometry software, for instance. Analyst software offered powerful analytics for its time, but SCIEX OS software surpasses its capabilities and continues to evolve to bring more powerful acquisition and processing techniques across a broader range of SCIEX products than Analyst software could ever provide. Continued reliance on Analyst software, which is no longer updated,  increases technical debt as more beneficial functionality is added to SCIEX OS software.

The consequences of accruing technical debt
Growing technical debt can have a variety of consequences, including:

  • Deteriorating problems: Ignoring technical debt allows existing issues to fester and worsen. What may seem like a minor inconvenience today can transform into a significant hurdle tomorrow that hampers productivity, efficiency and growth.
  • Increased costs: Over time, the cost of addressing technical debt escalates. Fixing accumulated problems requires more effort, resources and time, resulting in higher expenses compared to addressing them promptly. These costs can extend to software updates, system overhauls, employee training and potential loss of business opportunities.
  • Diminished efficiency: Outdated or poorly optimized software and processes hinder productivity and efficiency. Employees may struggle with slow processing speeds, convoluted workflows and inadequate tools, leading to frustration, low morale and decreased job satisfaction.
  • Competitive disadvantage: In a fast-paced business environment, failing to keep up with technological advancements can have a significant impact on a company’s competitiveness. Competitors who invest in modern solutions and cutting-edge technology are likely to outperform those burdened by technical debt, which can erode market share and revenue potential.

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Avoiding technical debt
To prevent the detrimental consequences of technical debt, businesses can adopt the following strategies:

  • Prioritize up-to-date software and technology: Regularly updating software, hardware and infrastructure is crucial to staying current and avoiding the accumulation of technical debt. By investing in the latest tools and technologies, businesses empower their employees to work more efficiently, reduce errors and leverage the benefits of modern systems.
  • Embrace automation: Implementing automated processes—such as scheduled MRM (sMRM), scout triggered MRM (stMRM), flagging rules, decision rules and the automatic outlier removal included with SCIEX OS software—can significantly enhance productivity, accuracy and consistency. Automation reduces the likelihood of manual errors and streamlines repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time for employees to focus on more strategic activities.
  • Proactive support and maintenance: Engaging in a support plan with software vendors or IT service providers helps ensure timely assistance and ongoing maintenance. Regular updates, bug fixes and continuous improvement efforts can address issues before they snowball into significant problems, reducing the accumulation of technical debt.
  • Foster a culture of continuous improvement: Encouraging a mindset of ongoing learning, professional development and process optimization within the organization helps prevent technical debt. Regularly assessing existing systems, soliciting feedback from employees and seeking opportunities for enhancement can ensure that potential issues are identified and addressed promptly.

Conclusion
Technical debt is a hidden challenge that businesses must address to maintain efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. By understanding the concept, recognizing the consequences of accumulating technical debt and taking proactive measures to avoid it, businesses can help ensure they are on a path of sustainable growth. Embracing up-to-date software, leveraging automation and staying informed about industry trends empowers organizations to tackle technical debt head-on and paves the way for a successful future. SCIEX OS software represents a contribution to that effort to continuously improve and close the gap on technical debt.

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April has been with SCIEX for over 15 years in various roles from customer training, to the demo lab where she faced real-life customer challenges in the lab and helped to solve them, and finally with the software business unit where she is currently a Technical Product Manager for SCIEX OS software. April holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Norwich University in Vermont. April is an avid CrossFitter and is passionate about health and fitness. She holds a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer Certificate and coaches part time at CrossFit Launchpad in Wellesley, MA. She also enjoys cooking & baking, traveling, stand-up paddle boarding, and spending quality time outdoors with her husband Patrick and their two Yorkshire Terriers, Dario and Cookie.

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