The hidden risk: Why technical debt should concern CX software buyersby
In an evolving experience engagement landscape, organisations rely on software solutions to drive better results and achieve a competitive advantage. While features, UX and cost-effectiveness often take the spotlight, Rachel Lane discusses the impact of technical debt on software buyers.
In the rapidly evolving experience engagement landscape, businesses rely heavily on software solutions to drive better customer outcomes, service efficiency, enhanced productivity, and gain a competitive edge. When considering the purchase of customer and employee experience analytics software which is set for continued revolution at scale over the next 5 years you need to consider all factors.
Frequently, buyers often focus on factors like features, user experience, and cost-effectiveness. However, one critical aspect that goes relatively unnoticed, but should be of paramount importance is technical debt. Technical debt in our current climate is often described as when a software development team prioritises speedy delivery over perfect code, that is a constant trade off internally but actually there is a more prolific type of technical debt that software buyers should be aware of. This occurs when development teams are running on a reduced workforce and are having to make decisions about completing committed upgrades, new versions, patches and built in integration connectors in order to satisfy their current roadmap commitments, and balancing this with their large customer demands as they inevitably surface.
Technical debt in our current climate is often described as when a software development team prioritises speedy delivery over perfect code.
A typical scenario
If your proposed vendor has 500 customers, 20% of those customers will likely be worth approximately 70-80% of their ARR. They have a major enterprise customer that has just started implementation of a whole new state of the art service management solution and they need 200 hours of engineering time with the vendor to create a compatible connector and integrate their new prized possession, is the CTO going to inform the CEO that they are going to lose their top customer, or are they going to tell all their other customers that are waiting for their version upgrade that there are delays? If you happen to be that top enterprise software buyer then the chances are you are covered, but what if you are actually not that big a deal to the vendor?
In 2023 the software industry has severely scaled down operations right across the business.
Whilst this isn’t a new problem it is certainly highly impactful this year. In 2023 the software industry has severely scaled down operations right across the business. This includes engineers and developers. Resources have never been so tight, and with every business now jumping on the LLM AI conversational analytics train which for many was unplanned 12 months ago, it is critical that software buyers ensure that they will get the solution that is promised.
To date, I have not seen any questions on an RFP to cover off this concern or heard any direct questions posed to a vendor.
I have tabled the main reasons why you should care about understanding vendor technical debt, each one is business critical.
The major reasons you need to care
Right now technical debt is being managed by every software vendor, some vendors manage this perfectly well, it is a trade off that they can easily cover with their existing team and it is all part of their agile methodology, but I would urge all buyers to do due diligence. Ask how many engineers and developers your vendor has this year, ask how many they had last year and how many they are planning across the next 3 years.
When you are making those customer reference calls ask the referee about implementation timelines, ask if there were any additional developments in their scope and if they were managed in a timely way. I would also ask if they have any upcoming additional engineering reqs and how confident they feel in the delivery of those.
Also ask about customer numbers last year, this year and proposed growth for next 3 years, they should be increasing engineers in line. The last thing you need is a verbal agreement for additional language models or API connectors post implementation, and then find that these are pushed out due to vendor business restraints.
Understanding the risks associated with technical debt allows buyers to make informed choices.
While technical debt may seem like a concern primarily for software developers, software buyers should also consider it a critical factor in their decision-making process. Understanding the risks associated with technical debt allows buyers to make informed choices, mitigate potential long-term expenses, and safeguard their investments. By prioritising software products with a low technical debt burden, buyers can ensure higher quality, increased flexibility, reduced costs, and faster time-to-market, enabling them to leverage software as a strategic asset for their organisations.