Modernization is Key to a Successful, Efficient Business

Modernization has three components: paying off tech debt, moving cost and security responsibility away from your business, and re-evaluating processes. Understanding the core purpose of each component is important to understanding why modernization is one of the keys to the success of your business, no matter how long it’s been around. Whether you’re running a startup or you’ve been in business for 30 years, you have a responsibility as a business owner to keep your tech up to date. Modernization is key to a successful, efficient business.

The first component of modernization is paying off tech debt. Tech debt is old equipment, old hardware and software and old systems that are hanging around. Some tech debt might be abandoned or no longer be in use, while other tech debt items might be in use but haven’t been upgraded in 5, 10, 15… even 40 years. Businesses will always have tech debt because they will acquire or buy tech that they think is at the time the best available and useful solution to a problem. The key here is that technology and software and built and adopted in a snapshot in time, and tech evolves very rapidly (Chrome has had 81 major versions since it’s inagural release at the end of 2008, so so many more if you include all the minor versions and revisions). When a business re-evaluate a tech descision 10 years later, the have almost always started accumulating technical debt they have to pay off. The aging tech can’t be left there, every day it is, it makes the business less secure and less resilient, because the tech becomes fragile as it ages and breaks more easily, running it becomes harder and finding talent to fix it or add to it is harder to come by. Replacing old equipment and upgrading hardware, software and systems in use is imperative to the security and growth of your business.

For example, in the banking industry, an estimated 40% of banks still us COBOL as the foundation of their systems. For companies which still use it, 95% of ATM transactions and 80% of in-person transactions pass through COBOL programs. Well, COBOL is no longer taught. Millenials and recent graduates have no idea what to do with this language. Which is a huge problem as the experts in the field age and retire, who is going to step in and maintain these systems? The industry is fearful of changing the process. But by continuing to leave it there, they put the industry at further risk because if part of that program breaks, who is going to fix it? That is why modernization is important. Not only does the industry need to be able to maintain these systems, but the longer those programs sit there, the more fragile they become and the risk of something going wrong increases exponentially daily.

Moving cost and security responsibility away from your business is another component of modernization. Moving responsibility away, in today’s world, generally means migrating to the cloud or moving to SaaS. When you do this, you alleviate the responsibility to your business and turn it over to experts. You cut the costs of buying physical servers, which will lower power bills and maintenance costs. You add the security of the cloud, entrusting that security to experts who know how to keep up with the changing tactics of hackers. And you remove point of failure from your organization.

The final component is re-evaluating processes. This is where as a business you’ll determine if every process that’s running is necessary. If it isn’t, get rid of it. If it’s necessary but needs to be upgraded to shed tech debt, make a plan and do it. Ensuring that unnecessary processes are removed and updating the necessary ones not only sheds tech debt, but also ensures the stability and security of your systems. 

As technology and systems age, they become more fragile. Eventually you get to a point where you cannot continue to build on top of old systems and processes because they break under any stress. Which is why modernization has to be done on a regular basis, it is not a one-time thing. Keeping up with current languages, systems and processes is vital to the safety and security of your business.

About the Author

Pieter VanIperen, Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs. He is a 20-year software engineering veteran, who founded or co-founder several companies. He acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups, and has held the titles of software and software security executive, consultant and professor. His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.

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