VI #042: Why Tech Debt Might Be Your Silent Growth Killer (and How to Overcome It)
Read time: <3.5 minutes
In the fast-paced world of B2B SaaS, growth often takes center stage.
Companies rush to release features, scale their infrastructure, and stay ahead of competitors. But, as any seasoned CTO or tech leader knows, there's a shadow lurking in the background: technical debt.
Just as financial debt can cripple a company's growth, unchecked tech debt can become a silent killer.
The Long-Term Vision
When crafting a long-term vision for your SaaS, the objective isn't just rapid growth; it's sustainable growth.
Consider this: What does success look like for your technical infrastructure a decade from now?
For many B2B leaders, it's a robust, scalable, and secure platform that can evolve with market demands and drive business objectives.
An illustrative example from my journey involved a significant architectural pivot. At one juncture, I was working with a large B2B company on a multi-year strategic initiative, and recognized that their UI engine, initially implemented using Backbone.js, was becoming a bottleneck.
The vision was clear: transition to a more modern and efficient solution. And React.js, with its component-based architecture, was the chosen path.
Annual Tech Prioritization
Strategically addressing tech debt requires a proactive approach.
Every year or so, it can be helpful to set aside dedicated time for a "Tech Debt Audit". This involves identifying accumulated debt, its impact on your operations, and devising a clear plan to address it.
Utilizing the SMART goal framework, create a strategy for tackling your most pressing tech debt concerns.
For instance, if legacy systems are slowing you down:
- Specific: Migrate to a more scalable infrastructure.
- Measurable: Reduce server response times by 30%.
- Achievable: Allocate resources to migrate in stages.
- Relevant: Ensure the new system can handle the expected customer load for the next five years.
- Time-Bound: Complete the migration by the end of the fiscal year.
Continuing the example shared earlier, the transition to React.js wasn't merely about adopting a new technology. It was about future-proofing the system. The results were telling: a 2.5x improvement in page load times, a 10x surge in productivity, and a two-thirds reduction in the codebase.
All achieved while enhancing and enabling the vision and overarching business goals.
Breaking down the yearly strategy into quarterly or monthly milestones ensures consistent progress.
If you've identified three major areas of tech debt, address them sequentially rather than simultaneously.
For the aforementioned React.js migration example:
- Formulate a proof of concept and secure leadership buy-in.
- Assemble a dedicated team and commence the migration, starting with foundational elements.
- Continue the migration with an emphasis on optimizing core functionalities.
- Complete the transition, ensuring seamless integration and enhanced performance metrics.
Addressing tech debt is not a one-time task; it requires daily diligence. This involves:
- Regular code reviews to identify potential problem areas.
- Continuous training to keep your team updated with best practices.
- Daily stand-ups to discuss and prioritize tech debt concerns.
- Allocating a fixed portion of each sprint dedicated solely to reducing tech debt, or alternatively, dedicating specific sprints to focus on paying down tech debt.
By integrating these practices into your daily operations, you ensure tech debt doesn't accumulate unnoticed.
Tech debt might seem like a necessary evil in the race to innovate and grow.
However, without strategic management, it can quickly spiral out of control, impacting your company's ability to scale, innovate, and meet business objectives.
But, with a clear vision, strategic planning, actionable tactics, and daily effort, tech debt can be managed and reduced.
It's not just about building fast; it's about building right. And for those who wish to not only lead but dominate in the B2B SaaS space, addressing tech debt is non-negotiable. Sustainable growth isn't just about what you build, but also about what you maintain and optimize.
And if you're navigating the complexities of tech debt and would like a hand in aligning your engineering goals with business objectives, I’m here to help. Consider booking a call with me to discuss tailored solutions for your unique challenges.
Hope this helps. See you next week.
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