By David Frank, Kepner-Tregoe

Organizations need to balance the scales—to embrace the latest technology while also ensuring that there is a backbone of stability and support. Unfortunately, a growing mass of tech debt is drowning industries in their effort to meet customer expectations and move toward an increasingly digital functionality. For anyone not familiar with the term, I define tech debt as the gap between the investment in new customer focused functionality, and the infrastructure needed to support it. The drive to meet continually increasing customer expectations with apps and just in time capability can challenge organizational stability and customer support.   

Yet tech debt is desirable as the organization increases digital functionality and improves customer facing services. In my work with financial services organizations, I help clients manage the tech debt created by rapidly developed, mobile applications and the existing back office systems that support them. The organizations that function best while dealing with mounting tech debt share a common feature: a problem-solving culture.

A problem-solving culture, where people embrace a shared approach to problem solving, creates greater stability because issues are resolved faster and at a lower cost. Key to functioning within an environment of rapid change is the ability to anticipate, mitigate, resolve, and communicate solutions to problems. Advanced problem-solving capabilities help move an organization away from reactive, fire-fighting toward proactive problem management. This is done by anticipating potential problems caused by new applications and technological change and communicating both rapid fixes and permanent root cause solutions. When forms and practices support a shared approach to problem solving, organizations can minimize potential issues and optimize change.

A team approach is inherent in an effective problem-solving culture. Using a shared, structured process for describing and resolving issues focuses efforts on relevant data. Whether managing an incident to restore service or managing a problem through to root cause, a shared process for describing issues and sharing relevant data accelerates resolution and reduces costs.

Many organizations use tools such as Cause & Effect Charting to communicate visually the sequence of events, understand recurring patterns and assist problem solvers in addressing issues as they unfold. A cause & effect chart replaces excess verbiage with visual information that is easily shared and understood. This is critical because if others don’t understand the breadth of an issue, any fixes or changes can create additional, unanticipated problems.

While machines are rapidly replacing people in job functions where simple, high-volume tasks can be automated, global business leaders confirm that people with advanced problem-solving capabilities will continue to be in high demand. The complexity of IT is at the core of tech debt. But a problem- solving culture, not grounded in a single technology or process, is a culture that embraces change. Organizations incur tech debt in their efforts to meet customer expectations and improve customer satisfaction. A problem-solving culture supports new technology and minimizes the negative effects of tech debt by ensuring greater stability in the face of rapid, technological change.

To learn more, read: How Financial Services Firms are Eliminating Tech Debt

About Kepner-Tregoe

Kepner-Tregoe has been the industry leader in problem-solving and service-excellence processes for more than 60 years. The experts at KT have helped companies raise their level of incident- and problem-management performance through tools, training and consulting – leading to highly effective service-management teams ready to respond to your company’s most critical issues.