Businesses that have been around for a while know that early technology decisions can have long-term implications. From migrating workloads to rewriting applications, it's hard for tech teams to change or reroute their course.
Brandur Leach recently wrote about the influence of early tech decisions at Stripe where, while the organization changed, its tech foundation stayed the same. Leach became part of the Stripe engineering team in 2015 before joining Crunchy Data as a software engineer last year.
When companies choose to modernize, there are many decisions to make from the planning stage to choosing a vendor and whether they should outsource help or not.
“The wrong decisions may not be fatal, but can take the CIO a while to recover,” said Monika Sinha, VP analyst at Gartner.
Nine in 10 IT leaders find application modernization extremely or somewhat challenging, according to an August Asperitas survey that polled 150 IT leaders in companies with at least 1,000 employees. IT leaders said challenges range from identifying the right tools and technologies, staffing, vendor choices, training on new systems to securing the support of management.
A wrong move could have consequences, whether that's wasted resources, time or money.
“When making new technology decisions early in our current, rapidly changing environment, CIOs have to be careful not to fall into the sunk cost trap,” Sinha said in an email. “Early discussions can lead to situational blindness and confirmation bias where the only facts being considered are those that validate and support the decision.”
Sinha suggests that instead of doubling down on decisions, businesses should push to get out of sinking investments and into something more promising.
The more invested a company is in the decision, the more likely it will want to wait and see if it eventually works. But expected benefits are not guaranteed, according to Sinha.
Change does come with costs, though.
“Anytime you’re going to uproot and take your business elsewhere, there’s a cost involved in terms of time, effort and resources – just with moving systems,” said Brian Jackson, CIO research director at Info-Tech Research Group.
Weighing the cost of moving versus the potential benefits or downsides of staying is an important part of knowing what move to make next, he said.
One way that businesses can mitigate vendor or platform lock-in is by taking a modular approach to IT infrastructure. This way businesses are not reliant on vendors to solve all their needs.
If a service provider becomes too expensive or is no longer needed, business can switch over to another or cut-off ties without affecting everything in the process, according to Jackson.
The success of a modernization plan is ultimately reliant on the planning process.
“Migrating to new technology can be a daunting task, but with a roadmap in place, CIOs are better equipped to make decisions that will help ensure the migration is a success,” Sinha said. “This may sound obvious, but a surprisingly large number of IT teams continue to migrate technology haphazardly with a minimal plan in place.”
Part of the planning process involves designing and executing a proof-of-concept (PoCs), according to Sinha. Tech leaders can use PoCs to validate assumptions, test for strategic requirements, accelerate decision making and avoid expensive mistakes.