Featured Article

Chronic technical debt could be holding your company back

You need a modernization plan to take advantage of the latest tech

Comment

Pile of cold equipment next to a modern laptop on a desk.
Image Credits: anilyanik / Getty Images

We’ve been hearing about digital transformation for over a decade now, the idea that you have to modernize your systems for a more digitally centric world. What holds back digital transformation? Well, lots of things, from office politics to budget prioritization to inertia, but one big factor preventing companies from taking advantage of the latest technology could be the age of their tech stack.

Companies steeped in another concept known as technical debt — a growing cost for not fixing structural problems in tech systems — could be limiting their ability to take advantage of newer technologies. And at some point, the cost of that debt could become so high, companies could be left in the dust altogether.

In the last 15 years, we’ve seen a number of meaningful technological shifts from mobile to cloud to containerization. If these waves passed you by, and you’re stuck on ancient systems, be prepared for your company’s future digital transformation journey to potentially be long and painful.

We spoke to David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte and author of the book “An Insider’s Guide to Cloud Computing,” about the issue of overcoming technical debt. Linthicum has been helping companies move to the cloud for years now, and he has a dire message for firms stuck on older systems.

Move faster, will ya

One thing we know about large enterprises is they typically move methodically. They have systems in place, like legal, compliance, security and HR, all built to say no in order to protect the company from changing too quickly. While nobody is suggesting that large companies suddenly start “moving fast and breaking things,” it may be time to pick up the pace or risk getting left behind.

At the AWS re:Invent keynote in 2019, then CEO Andy Jassy let the assembled know that he was tired of all the dabbling in the cloud, and he wanted companies to get going. ​​“It’s easy to go a long time dipping your toe in the water if you don’t have an aggressive goal,” he said at the time.

Linthicum says that companies that are still in that position today are going to face some serious challenges. “In many instances, digital transformation is just another word for fixing stuff you forgot to fix,” he told TechCrunch+.

And he views this as being divided into the haves and the have-nots. “There are companies that have done a lot of pre-planning and eliminated as much technical debt as they could, and have designed a path to modernization, who have a clear vision about how they’re going to leverage technology strategically to elevate the business,” he said. “And there are those who haven’t done that, who have a tremendous amount of technical debt, and can’t figure out how to modernize the existing systems.”

An existential crisis

You need to start reducing technical debt as soon as you can, or at least have a plan on how to do it, because if there is a market-altering event, like, say, the release of ChatGPT last November, then suddenly you are behind before the game even started.

It all goes back to fixing what’s broken, old or brittle, pieces of the whole that are dragging down the entire tech stack. “If there’s one shift in the market . . . things that are kind of game changing, these companies are not going to be able to participate in it, and the more they try, the more money they’re gonna have to spend compared to their competitors because they didn’t do the upfront work to get to a point where their systems are in a more healthy state,” he said.

If you don’t take steps and build a methodical plan to fix the mess, then Linthicum really believes you risk irrelevancy. Or as Linthicum put it, the “brandpocalypse” will get you.

The idea is that well-established companies drowning in technical debt will fall further and further behind and will eventually be sold or combined with other similarly suffering companies. “​​I truly see that in 10 years time, we’re going to see a lot of the bigger brands falling by the wayside because of what we’re talking about. They have too much technical debt, and can’t leverage [newer] technology,” he said.

That said, organizations attempting to make changes at scale have to recognize that they will face a ton of challenges along the way, but it’s imperative that they try. “You can’t boil the ocean. You can only work on a handful of things at a time, so you get incrementally better over time,” he said. “If I was CTO of one of those companies, I would take a look at the entire architecture and look at where the worst issues are and which ones are causing the most value drain.”

And that will require a detailed plan with what takes precedence. “You have to put it into a priority order as to what you attack first and understand the way to win this game, or at least getting closer to win this game, is to utilize the resources you have in the most efficient way.”

When choosing a tech stack, look before you leap

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo