Avoid Technical Debt: Make Sure Technology is Represented in the C-Suite

By Tony Messerschmidt

With everything else that the C-suite has to manage, many leaders underestimate their organization’s technology costs – as well as how much old, outdated technology drains productivity and the bottom line.

They assume that “technical debt” simply includes hardware and software costs, along with annual IT operating budgets that keep your systems running. But technical debt is made up of more than just these costs. To get an idea of your true technical debt, you should include the amount of time spent on duplicate processes and extra work due to outdated technology (or disparate systems), inefficient manual processes that could be automated, and even the cost of having paid-for systems that aren’t being used.

In addition to costing your organization money, technical debt can also create employee frustration – and encourage them to reconsider where they work. Technology’s goal is to boost productivity, save time, decrease human error, reduce costs, and improve customer experiences. But when it becomes a burden instead, it creates the opposite effect: It wastes time, disrupts workflow, and drives productivity down. In worst-case scenarios, it can even lead to data loss and security issues. What are your long-term costs when those are the outcomes?

A disconnect between your C-suite and technology decision-makers – whether they’re internal or external (or both) – can lead to outdated infrastructure, downtime, and missed business opportunities.

It’s no secret that technology is the agent of change. As things like Internet of Things (IoT), automation, blockchain, and artificial intelligence move to the forefront, who within your organization is tasked with making sure you’re ready? Who will make it happen? Getting buy-in from the C-suite is vital to successful technology investments and rollouts. In other words: Technology needs to be represented within the C-suite. Do your leaders understand:

  • That new technology requires training and education?
  • How technology can help – or hinder – communication?
  • What is – and isn’t – possible with the technology you currently have in place?

In their defense, it’s not a surprise that CEOs, CFOs, and COOs aren’t always technology fluent. Just think about everything else they have to juggle! Not that long ago, conversations about technology only needed to be revisited once every few years. Now, with things changing so quickly, it’s a topic that brings new challenges and opportunities almost every day.

That’s why having a technology leader at the C-suite table who can motivate employees, talk about technology in simple and impactful terms, and enact enterprise-wide change will serve you well. In fact, a recent survey indicates that 43% of CEOs want to better understand the technology inside their businesses so they can make better decisions and be better leaders.

When someone embedded into your organization’s technology infrastructure is included in strategic conversations and goal-setting, it gives everyone the opportunity to plan for the technology you need – as well as the financial resources, systems, and people you need to support it.

If you have a technology leader within your organization, that person should have a seat at the C-suite table. If you don’t have someone who fits that role well, don’t worry! Embark can help. We’ve assisted C-suites with understanding the impacts of new technology, the technology they need (and the technology they don’t), and the ramifications of letting technology fall too far behind.

Even if you do have a robust IT team in place, sometimes bringing in a third party to help explain things in a different way, offer a new perspective, or just answer questions can be helpful.

Want to learn more about why and how technology should be represented at your C-suite table? Send us a note – we’d love to chat!

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