23 Apr 2018
How to use integration to reduce technical debt
What is technical debt?
Technical debt arises as a result of taking development shortcuts instead of doing a more thorough, usually longer, job. Like financial debt, the longer you leave paying it off, the more you pay in interest. Many organizations are incurring technical debt by keeping legacy systems going because it would requires too much cost or effort to upgrade or replace them. However, by updating their integration strategy, companies can support existing legacy IT business systems, re-engineer to implement more modern systems, as well as new, agile, cloud-based software, and so reduce their technical debt burden.
How does technical debt grow?
Organizations today face dynamic and occasionally turbulent situations, internally and externally, and with all this change the prospects for technical debt increase. These include:
- changes in legislation and regulation creating unanticipated changes;
- hiring freezes;
- programs that are implemented to save money, speed up projects, or avoid the disruption of an upgrade.
Why is technical debt now so applicable?
Perhaps more than any time since the Y2K era, technical debt is now becoming a major issue. Consider these points.
- Fifteen to twenty years ago, enterprises were being urged to invest in an ERP system to improve business efficiency. These days, many of those companies are now ‘frozen’ by their ERP software. It’s not uncommon for a large amount of customization to be done to an ERP system, which makes upgrades complex and costly
- Many businesses still run old systems which current staff don’t understand well
- As new applications get added over time, the overall complexity of the application portfolio increases so it becomes harder to understand and manage
- Organizations have found that the burden of traditional IT systems, which they are used to and have planned for, has now been increased by ‘shadow IT’
Not dealing with technical debt creates competitive disadvantage that increases over time, and risks becoming ‘technical bankruptcy.’
Dealing with technical debt
The Gartner group have developed the TIME(Tolerate, Invest, Migrate, Eliminate) methodology to measure and assess the business value and risks of applications.
You can read more here.
Where integration can help reduce technical debt
For those larger IT systems at the higher end of the Business Value spectrum which require re-engineering, you can use an integration platform to create integrations that provide services on top of existing enterprise applications, using their standard interfaces, and decoupling the operative data from the underlying legacy system. This is part of the new integration architecture that organizations need to set up.
Increasingly, a business system architecture is composed of a combination of monolithic applications and other loosely connected applications either on-premise or in the cloud. An integration platform can support these complex IT systems and architectures with greater flexibility, at a lower cost, and better scalability than the traditional service bus applications. With Flowgear DropPoints, you can ensure seamless integration between cloud and on-premise applications, while maintaining data security and integrity.
If your application portfolio is complex and managing the integration between systems has become difficult to manage, so-called ‘spaghetti integration’, Flowgear’s integration platform can help untangle the interactions and prevent spaghetti integration from recurring.
- Release Management allows developers to control when integration workflows are promoted between environments – e.g., test, QA, production. Combined with Revision Management, it is possible to roll back to earlier versions of a workflow is needed
- Dependency insights enables developers and enterprise architects to visualize the relationships between integration workflows and different endpoints. This makes it possible to monitor the network of integrations and manage integrations that are inefficient.
- Inside the Flowgear Console, where integrations are created, managed, and run, workflows can be grouped into sub-folders for easier management
- Flowgear will shortly be releasing role-based access for integration workflows, allowing control at a more granular level of who can do what
The digitization of business also means that the IT architecture extends beyond the enterprise to systems at customers and suppliers. Using Flowgear.io, your organization can provide a secure enterprise API that can process business transactions between external parties and your applications.
A similar API-based approach can be applied to integrate mobile applications with existing back-end systems in a way that makes it easier for developers.
To reduce technical debt, the architecture of an IT environment needs to provide an abstraction to separate applications from the underlying infrastructure so that it is easier to swap services behind end points. With a modern integration strategy, IT departments can deliver smart architectures that have the flexibility to change and swap technologies when needed.
There are two key phrases currently used by business strategists – innovation, and digital transformation. Technical debt negatively impacts both of these, and increasing technical debt is a competitive disadvantage that grows over time. With an integration platform, businesses can re-engineer or replace legacy systems, and start adding new systems and capabilities, so they can address those two key phrases.